Exhibition Shows Off the ‘Tomorrowland’ Visions of a NKorean Architect


Whenever a movie set in the future premieres, it’s always interesting to what the director envisions society will look like decades or centuries from today. In such films, the future almost always is either littered with death and destruction (Terminator Salvation or Rise of the Planet of the Apes) or saturated with stunning neo-modern skyscrapers and superstructures (Cloud Atlas or The Fifth Element).

Hollywood’s take on futuristic architecture has been on display for quite a while, but for the first time ever, people now get the chance to see how a North Korean architect envisions buildings of the future. Currently on exhibition at the Venice Architecture Biennale in Italy is “Commissions for Utopia,” which depicts futuristic buildings designed by one of the country’s brightest young architects—someone who Wired reported has little exposure to modern architecture:

In the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, “architect” is a government job. There are no private projects, and young North Korean architects come out of school with only a faint understanding of the field as it exists outside their deeply isolated country. Recently, however, one young architect was given a rare chance at an outside commission by a client named Nick Bonner.

Bonner, a British filmmaker and founder of Koryo Tours, a travel company responsible for more than half of all the foreign tourists who visit the country, commissioned the architect to produce illustrations of futuristic tourist destinations for the world’s most isolated country. Bonner is convinced North Korea is bound to become a popular travel spot. According to Reuters, Koryo Tours has experienced “a tenfold rise in business in the past decade” and an estimated 6,000 Westerners travel every year from 700 a decade ago.

Wired magazine said the speculative drawings “could pass as concept art for the Tomorrowland section of Disney’s theme parks.” Here’s a sampling of the unnamed architect’s futuristic renderings:

img_4464-2Sustainability was a key theme for the artwork, and this self-sustaining silk cooperative receives energy from solar panels, wind turbines and watermills. The buildings are reminiscent of a “Korean hand wheel, which is used for weaving.” The randomly interspersed helicopter pads, cable lifts and the infusion of nature show why this location might be a pleasant destination for “workers of the countryside.”


img_4411-2Nature surrounds this “aerial hotel,” which emphasizes open space for customers—that is, as long as they’re not afraid of heights. The uniquely cone-shaped gliding mechanical object on the top left appears to be a futuristic helicopter.


img_4416-2One of the things that Seoul is known for is its sheer number of apartments that crowd the city. Well, in this image, North Korea seems to have solved the overcrowded atmosphere created by blocky apartments by constructing immense conifer-shaped buildings interconnected by cone-shaped tubes, which are apparently ski runs. Self-sustainability once again is evidenced by the solar panels, and interestingly enough, helicopters make another appearance on top of the apartments.


Forget the old RV trucks, travel in style inside you very own flying house, lifted into the air by a single propeller.


What appears at first to be a broken Rubik’s cube is a riverside guesthouse called “The Bird’s Nest.” The house is made up mostly of the surrounding woods and looks as if each pillar or section is its own bird nest. The horizontal pillars symbolize the connection of the house to its surroundings, and so a harmonic relationship between modernity and nature is once again established.

Illustrations via Koryo Tours