What Is The World's Tallest Unfinished Building?

The Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang. Editorial credit: Oleg Znamenskiy / Shutterstock.com.
The Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang. Editorial credit: Oleg Znamenskiy / Shutterstock.com.

The Ryugyong Hotel, which is also sometimes referred to as Yu-Kyung Hotel or the 105 Building, is an iconic but unfinished building in Pyongyang, North Korea. The unfinished building is a pyramid-shaped skyscraper that is 1,080-feet-tall and contains 105 floors, hence the name the "105 Building." It is also the tallest building in North Korea, and was listed as the world's tallest unoccupied building by Guinness World Records. Construction of the building began in 1987, but was temporarily stopped in 1992 when the country entered an economic crisis, and later resumed in 2008. The building was designed as a mixed-use space, which would include a hotel.

Origin of the Ryugyong Hotel

In the 1980s, North Korea’s economy began to slow as the national debt became an increasing concern. During the same period, South Korea's agriculture-based economy was transforming into to one of the most successful economies in the world. Since the Cold War still ongoing, both countries were competing for legitimacy and global prestige. Concerned that South Korea was advancing faster, North Korea searched for ideas to boost its prominence. North Korean leader Kim II Sung thought that the best way to surpass South Korea was to create a super modern hotel that would serve as a symbol of Pyongyang. Therefore, the concept of the Ryugyong Hotel was born, which was planned to be the world's largest hotel at that time.


The Ryugyong Hotel is a 1,080 ft tall building and is North Korea’s tallest structure. The building was planned for completion in June 1989, and would have become the tallest hotel in the world until 2009, when Rose Tower was completed in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). The unfinished hotel currently ranks as the 63rd tallest building in the world, and is 12th in the world in terms of total number of floors. The Ryugyong Hotel is pyramid-shaped and consists of three wings. Each wing measures 330 ft long and 59 ft wide, and the three wings converge near the top to form a pinnacle. The building is topped by an 8-floor truncated cone that is 130 ft wide and is intended to rotate, plus an additional six static floors on top. According to some sources, the Ryugyong Hotel was designed to include five revolving restaurants and at least 7,650 guest rooms. More recently, the building is reported to be planned for mixed-use development.


Construction of the Ryugyong Hotel began in 1987, with Baikdoosan Architects & Engineers, a North Korean construction firm, serving as builder. However, there were several barriers to its completion, especially the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union. North Korea was subsequently deprived of its trading partners, leading to an economic crisis that wiped out almost 40% of the nation's GDP. By 1992, the Ryugyong Hotel had been built up to its full architectural height, but work was halted since the economy was not stable enough to support further construction. The site remained inactive for 16 years, until April 2008 when Egyptian-based Orascom Group resumed construction. This work concentrated mainly on the building's exterior, while the interior remained incomplete. In 2018, an LED screen was fitted on one side of the building's exterior, which is used to show animations and film scenes.


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