How North Korea Commissions Architects
Not many architecture firms can claim (or would even want to claim?) North Korea as a client, but one firm in China has seemingly found its way into making Kim Jong Un a happy, repeat customer.
PLT Planning and Architecture, with offices in Shanghai and Hong Kong, had previously proposed a redesign for the Kamgang tourism zone airport in the North Korean port city of Wonsan. The firm imagined the military airport transformed for civilian use via two sleek terminals designed to resemble the drums used in traditional Korean musical performances.
Their design apparently pleased North Korea's supreme leader, Kim Jong Un. "We were told that Kim was happy with our design," PLT planner Otto Cheng told the South China Morning Post earlier this week, in a fascinating interview that offers a glimpse at how the North Korean government goes about reaching out to private, outside firms.
PLT's design for the Kamgang tourism zone airport in Wonsan
According to the SCMP report, an unidentified middleman was authorized by the North Korean government to select an architect to redesign North Korea's airports. "We were approached by a potential investor who is very close to the North Korean government," Cheng told the paper. Then, one of his partners at the firm was invited to fly to North Korea on the investor's private jet. "Of course, they had to leave their mobile phones in the airport before entering the country," Cheng added. The planner would not identify the investor or their country of origin.
Cheng also tells the Hong Kong paper that he finds local projects less satisfying and Hong Kong "less receptive to creative ideas" than in previous years. That boredom and frustration apparently translates into embracing a rather unique collection of clients, including, according to SCMP, the governments of Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Iraq and Peru. The firm's online portfolio doesn't list any projects in those countries, though it's easy to guess why they'd choose not to publicize them.
The 2011 expansion (right) of Pyongyang's airport as seen through an airplane. Image courtesy YouTube/Ian M - flymajj
Inside Pyongyang's international airport. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Kristoferb
The exterior of Pyongyang's international airport. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Caspian blue