Maybe you don't associate Pyongyang with architectural nuance, but that's your mistake. The mysterious North Korean capital is home to baffling monuments, neohistorical public buildings and vast, intentionally bland housing developments. It's also the source of the wondrous series of images below, part of an exhibit now stationed at the Venice Architecture Biennale in Italy, on no less than the future of architecture.
That's the future of the architecture of ecotourism, to be precise. Another quality you may not have presumed about Pyongyang: it's naturally stunning, bounded by scenic coastlines and mountains. Politics aside, it's got all the makings of the next Costa Rica.
The series, titled "Commissions for Utopia," is the brainchild of a man named Nick Bonner. British-born and trained as a landscape architect, Bonner now runs the foremost tourist agency for the world's least visited country. Fewer than 4,000 tourists a year enter North Korea, and Koryo Tours -- Bonner's company -- takes more than half of them inside. Koryo must honor the country's massive restrictions, while still putting on a show. An architecture-themed tour this fall, for instance, promises to take visitors into a Pyongyang apartment.
Given Bonner's line of work, his contribution to the Biennale makes sense: he commissioned a North Korean architect to imagine what Pyongyang could look like in a future where tourists are commonplace. The images include hotels on stilts, and complexes built around waterfalls. Also pictured, according to Wired Magazine, "a self-sustaining silk cooperative, with massive solar panel-clad wheels and ziggurat-shaped living quarters."
All the designs take nature into account, from the use of natural stone rather than concrete in the silk co-op, to a bird nest-inspired guesthouse, with rooms meant to mimic the soothing lines of a cave interior.
The title of the project references Pyongyang's roots as a would-be Stalinist dreamland. Check out more views of the imaginary city below, and let us know if you'd pack your bags and venture forth in the comments.