Abstract

This article explores North Korea’s postwar reconstruction through the variegated features of architectural development in Pyongyang. The rebirth of Pyongyang as the center of both state authority and work culture is distinctly represented by architecture. In this setting, architecture as theory and practice was divided into two contiguous and interconnected types: monumental structures symbolizing the utopian vision of the state and vernacular structures instrumental to the regime of production in which the apartment was an exemplary form. The author makes three claims: first, Pyongyang’s monumental and vernacular architectural forms each embody both utopian and utilitarian features; second, the multiplicity of meaning exhibited in each architectural form is connected to the transnational process of bureaucratic expansion and industrial developmentalism; and third, North Korea’s postwar architectural history is a lens through which state socialism of the twentieth century can be better understood—not as an exceptional moment but as a constituent of globalized modernity, a historical formation dependent on the collusive expansion of state power and industrial capitalism. A substantial part of this article is a discussion of the methods and sources relevant to writing an architectural history of North Korea.

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