The exterior of the Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang, North Korea (top) has finally been completed so that at least from the outside it looks like a completed structure (the interior remains unfinished). The Ryugyong is arguably the most notorious architectural boondoggle in recent times (what possible reason could there be to build a 3,000-room luxury hotel in Pyongyang, of all places?), having stood half-finished and virtually abandoned (bottom) for more than a decade before construction resumed in 2008. The latest estimate calls for it to open in 2013.
The cost of the project at the time the concrete superstructure of the building was completed in 1992 (when energy and resource shortages in this desperately poor country forced work to a halt) was estimated to be $750 million, about 2% of North Korea’s GDP. To put that number in perspective, 2% of the US’s 1992 GDP was $127 billion; that’s over $200 billion in today’s dollars.