Domus' Pyongyang Hotel Ideas competition certainly turned heads, especially Jan Kaplicky of Future Systems, who was "horrified, dismayed, indignant and, finally, saddened" by the feature in Domus 882 - brings on a debate between Stefano Boeri, editor of Domus and Kaplicky. via KF
Ripped from entre rayas
Following publication last June in domus 882 of the feature on Pyongyang, much controversy was raised, both pro and con, about the initiative of our director Stefano Boeri, who, from the North Korean capital, launched a call for both â€œarchitectural and geopoliticalâ€ ideas to re-think the immense concrete pyramid of the Ryugyong Hotel.
One of those speaking up was Jan Kaplicky, architect and founder in 1979 of Future Systems. In a letter addressed to domusâ€™ editor, Kaplicky wrote: â€œDomus 882 for June 2005, with its twenty-two pages and three covers of North Korean propaganda left me horrified, dismayed, indignant and, finally, saddened. Propaganda for a regime that tramples human rights. (â€¦) The photographs and text of the article you published lend support to such an empire of evil without even a critical word. (â€¦) Plus, what you speak about is not even architecture, at most a pile of bricks and cement, the Ryugyong hotel certainly is not architecture: it is empty inside, without a living soul.â€ Kaplicky concluded by stating: â€œModern architecture cannot exist without free human beings.â€
In this monthâ€™s issue, Stefano Boeri responds to this and other criticism. â€œThe political dimension of architecture is not in the coloured labels we stick on our projects, nor is it in the grandiloquence of our political declarations. It lies in producing a useful, critical conscience about the contemporary world; useful because it is critical.â€ Boeri continues, â€œIn recent months, in the pages of domus, we have spoken about the off-limits nuclear cities of the Soviet Union, the routes of illegal immigrants in the Mediterranean, the savage exploitation of immigrants in the construction yards of Shanghai and the infernal prison of Buenos Aires. And, with the same spirit, that of delving into a local reality, we went to Pyongyang. Where we spoke about â€“ without ideological proclamations â€“ a frightful city laced with immense empty roads (â€¦). A city peppered with immense, half-empty monuments rotating around a gigantic rubble â€“ the Ryugyong Hotel â€“ symbol and setback of a failed regime that perhaps is attempting to emerge from its suicidal isolation.â€
Boeri defends his decision to make the Ryugyong Hotel a symbolic bridge, a fissure through which to denounce a dictatorship and open a crack in its isolation. As the director of domus emphasizes â€œâ€¦ sometimes the architectural point-of-view can reveal weak-points and cracks that spying and international diplomacy are not even capable of searching out.â€