LATEST NEWS

This Is What Happens When Dictators Make Buildings

When a ruler is drunk with power, sometimes their poor choices end up in concrete and steel.

By Nathalie Nayman September 16, 2016
Pyongyang Ice Rink. Photo courtesy of Raphael Olivier / archdaily.com

Have you seen the polls lately? We here at Agorafy have. And yet, due to our journalistic impartiality, we are not at liberty to express out political views. Nonetheless, current political events have, shall we say, brought our attention to certain things.

What does future hold for us? Will NYC see a massive exodus of liberal-minded individuals? Should we learn archery to prepare for Hunger Games? Will the city’s landscape change? The last question is a serious one—and perhaps the easiest to answer.

Related: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly: Three NYC Buildings That Might Have Been

History tells us that certain political regimes can have a profound effect on architecture. According to Alice Ismail, for example, “Architecture is used to mediate forms of political power in order to propagate political ideologies to the pluralist society.” And, let’s be honest—a somewhat strict ideology does not seem like such a remote possibility right now.

Here at Agorafy we decided to take a look at architecture in a few dictatorial countries (just saying) from the defunct Soviet Union to contemporary North Korea. Is there a chance that NYC might end up looking like this? Only time will tell.

download-6
Rome EUR (Palace of Civilization,) Italy. Photo courtesy of wikipedia.org

If you want to binge-enjoy eye-pleasing buildings, book a tour to Italy, right? That is, unless we speak of Benito Mussolini’s fascist architecture (which is actually a thing). This style, developed in fascist societies, featured elements like symmetry, simplicity and a general absence of imagination or joy. These buildings mean business. No time to ponder capricious décor elements, the implied message says, we have citizens to militarize and immigrants to deport.

Uzbekistan Hotel. Photo courtesy of hoteluzbekistan.uz
Uzbekistan Hotel. Photo courtesy of hoteluzbekistan.uz

As Urban Ghosts here cleverly point out, modesty isn’t something commonly associated with dictators. Be it reflection of their ego or certain overcompensating issues, buildings in the countries with dictatorial regimes tend to look huge. This enormous Hotel Uzbekistan in Tashkent is a proof that dictators love to build big as their egos. And, while we do have some impressive skyscrapers in New York, could there be more humorless monoliths in our future?

download-8
Moscow State University. Photo courtesy of raskalov-vit.livejournal.com

The infamous Soviet Union’s Stalinist architecture might look somewhat different from fascist buildings—in fact, in comparison to the latter, Stalinist structures look almost playful—but they definitely had a lot in common when it came to project execution. The Moscow State University main building, for example, was constructed by Gulag inmates. That’s one way to make sure that construction meets deadlines. One can only imagine what kind of buildings a dictatorial vision combined with forced labor might produce in NYC. Let’s hope we will never find out.

Pyongyang International Cinema House, a massive hall featuring several screening rooms able to fit up to 3000 seats for the largest, is a pure example of Pyongyang's brutalist architecture. All in bare raw concrete with modern shapes and sharp edges, brutalist buildings can be found all around the city but this one is probably the most impressive of them all, and could actually make for a perfect science fiction film set.

Who said that dictatorial architecture can’t produce some weird buildings? Well, it normally doesn’t—unless you take a country like North Korea. Here we see a socialist-inspired structure and, at the same time, allowance for some elements of traditional Korean design to sink in. The end result is a powerful control tool. These North Korean buildings look so quaint (yes, we couldn’t choose just one) they probably have the power to brainwash the local population by just sitting there.

American Plaza. Photo courtesy of vasilyklyukin.com
American Plaza. Photo courtesy of vasilyklyukin.com

Above everything else, dictatorial architecture must emanate the spirit of patriotism, preferably, in an overzealous and frenzied fashion. This A-shaped American-flagged colored America Plaza in the center of Manhattan is definitely patriotic. Just kidding. It hasn’t been built just yet. However, depending on how our election goes, NYC might just end up having this building overlooking the Statue of Liberty. Perhaps constructed with the forced labor of political opponents who couldn’t make it to Canada fast enough.

 

 

 

Nathalie Nayman

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Nathalie Nayman

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Nathalie Nayman

Nathalie is an international media trooper. After working as a journalist in Moscow, Nathalie participated in local politics and social movements in Cairo where she covered the protests and political upheaval of the Arab Spring. Nathalie is Agorafy's content manager. She produces and oversees unique and creative content for the Newsroom.

  • AGORAFY
    Stefano Boeri, the architect mastermind behind the famous plant-covered skyscrapers, is now designing Forest Cities in Liuzhou, China. #ForestCity #China https://goo.gl/PsTUwv
  • AGORAFY
    Auction is the second scheduled in a month for a One57 unit and it could set a NYC foreclosure record. #BillionairesRow #Foreclosures https://goo.gl/NZ3zqD
  • AGORAFY
    Once a couch-surfing website, Airbnb moves on to luxury properties, further disrupting hospitality industry. #Airbnb #Luxury https://goo.gl/7TpLk6
Four Countries To Retire In With $200K In Savings—And How Much Real Estate Costs There
Ever dreamed of retiring abroad? You know, affordable healthcare, better climate, more positive news—becoming an expat seems like an enticing option, especially one you no…
While Other Real Estate Platforms Start Charging Agents $3-Per-Day Exposure Fee, Agorafy Remains Accessible To All
Real Estate searching platform are always finding news ways to diversify their revenues models. Case in point—on Tuesday July 18, Streeteasy, one of New York…
Is Real Estate Crowdfunding The Fix That Urban Housing In America Really Needs?
Saving money for a down payment? One can only hope. Most millennial in their twenties or thirties are mortified that they might never be able…
Brooklyn And Queens’ Real Estate Sub-Markets Continue Their Ascent To The New Heights
So, the sales prices in Brooklyn and Queens hit record highs. Again. Just like they did in December 2016 and at the end of this…
The Economy Of Car Services And Delivery Apps Might Be Making NYC Less Eco-Friendly
Living in an eco-friendly neighborhood is a good thing. And, as it always the case with the good things, it also costs more. High rents…
Building Communities: What The U.S. Developers Should Learn From Soho China
As our world emerges into the new period of globalization and technology, some of the most important by-products of this process are buildings that have…
Five Reasons Why All Entrepreneurs Must Keep Their Eyes On China
It is hard to overestimate the importance of Chinese influence on the modern global economy. Carving out a place in Chinese market and winning over…
Airbnb Up Their Game With A New Luxury Tier Featuring Mansions And Villas
Airbnb is about to seriously up their game. First, the company started testing a new service called Select in an attempt to push accommodation listings…