Pyongyang interiors in unexpected and bizarre colors

Oliver Wainwright - National Drama Theatre, Pyongyang
Oliver WainwrightNational Drama Theatre, Pyongyang, 2015

Oliver Wainwright North Korean Interiors documents the unique architecture and the interiors of various regions of North Korea and its capital Pyongyang. Not many photographers get the opportunity to explore this isolated country owing to its closed state; however, Wainwright took the opportunity and ran with it. The interiors that he documented were very kitsch and retro as they were originally created to adorn important theaters and buildings that were designed during the Soviet era.

When Wainwright first visited Pyongyang on a 10-day tour, a large part of him expected to see dilapidated buildings that had been affected by years of decline and decay. However, he discovered that the city was characterized by old buildings yet; however, they were modern and bedecked by the most unexpected bright and colorful hues.

According to Wainwright, this was part of the government’s effort to transform the country into the next most popular tourist destination. By 2020, the government expects to draw in more than 2 new million visitors. Wainwright managed to document the most fascinating techniques and designs in architecture; many of the buildings were designed to symbolize the culture and the attitudes of the people at that time. For instance, the Pyongyang Ice Rink is shaped like a skater’s cap while the gym at Chongchun Sports Street is shaped to resemble a pair of dumbbells.

During the Cold War, North Korean architecture underwent a revolution to produce unique designs. According to Wainwright, the color craze started about 10 years ago because according to historical evidence, photographs of the same buildings were not as colorful in the 90s. Many of the buildings that Wainwright encountered were newly painted; the marble mosaics were replaced by new and shiny materials such as vinyl. In general, the colors have transformed North Korea into one large socialist dreamland.

The colorful buildings demonstrate the political atmosphere in North Korea; all aspects of tourism are very controlled where nothing spontaneous or unexpected is ever allowed to occur. It appears as though all the colorful buildings, though impressive, were staged for photography.

Oliver Wainwright - Grand People’s Study House, Pyongyang, 1982
Oliver WainwrightChanggwang San Hotel, Pyongyang, 1982, 2015

Oliver Wainwright - Kim Jong Suk Creche, Pyongyang
Oliver WainwrightKim Jong Suk Creche, Pyongyang, 2015

Oliver Wainwright - National Drama Theatre, Pyongyang
Oliver WainwrightNational Drama Theatre, Pyongyang, 2015

Oliver Wainwright - Pyongyang Diplomatic Club
Oliver WainwrightPyongyang Diplomatic Club, 2015

Oliver Wainwright - Pyongyang Diplomatic Club
Oliver WainwrightPyongyang Diplomatic Club, 2015

Oliver Wainwright - Changgwang San Hotel, Pyongyang
Oliver WainwrightChanggwang San Hotel, Pyongyang, 2015

Oliver Wainwright - Changgwang San Hotel, Pyongyang
Oliver WainwrightChanggwang San Hotel, Pyongyang, 2015

Oliver Wainwright - Rungrado 1st of May Stadium, 1989 (renovated 2014)
Oliver WainwrightRungrado 1st of May Stadium, 1989 (renovated 2014), 2015

Oliver Wainwright - Rungrado 1st of May Stadium, 1989 (renovated 2014)
Oliver WainwrightRungrado 1st of May Stadium, 1989 (renovated 2014), 2015

Oliver Wainwright - Rungrado 1st of May Stadium, 1989 (renovated 2014)
Oliver WainwrightRungrado 1st of May Stadium, 1989 (renovated 2014), 2015

Oliver Wainwright - Rungrado 1st of May Stadium, 1989 (renovated 2014)
Oliver WainwrightRungrado 1st of May Stadium, 1989 (renovated 2014), 2015

Oliver Wainwright - Rungrado 1st of May Stadium, 1989 (renovated 2014)
Oliver WainwrightRungrado 1st of May Stadium, 1989 (renovated 2014), 2015

Oliver Wainwright - Rungrado 1st of May Stadium, 1989 (renovated 2014)
Oliver WainwrightRungrado 1st of May Stadium, 1989 (renovated 2014), 2015

Oliver Wainwright - Rungrado 1st of May Stadium, 1989 (renovated 2014)
Oliver WainwrightRungrado 1st of May Stadium, 1989 (renovated 2014), 2015

Oliver Wainwright - Yanggakdo International Hotel, Pyongyang, 1995
Oliver WainwrightYanggakdo International Hotel, Pyongyang, 1995, 2015

Oliver Wainwright - Changgwang Health and Recreation Complex, Pyongyang, 1981-86
Oliver WainwrightChanggwang Health and Recreation Complex, Pyongyang, 1981-86, 2015

Oliver Wainwright - Changgwang Health and Recreation Complex, Pyongyang, 1981-86
Oliver WainwrightChanggwang Health and Recreation Complex, Pyongyang, 1981-86, 2015

Oliver Wainwright - Changgwang Health and Recreation Complex, Pyongyang, 1981-86
Oliver WainwrightChanggwang Health and Recreation Complex, Pyongyang, 1981-86, 2015

Oliver Wainwright - Changgwang Health and Recreation Complex, Pyongyang, 1981-86
Oliver WainwrightChanggwang Health and Recreation Complex, Pyongyang, 1981-86, 2015

 

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