Characteristics of spatial configurations in Pyongyang, North Korea

This study examines how North Korea’s socio-economic conditions have influenced Pyongyang’s spatial configurations over time, using space syntax methodology—a proven methodology for analyzing the relationships between urban spaces, and deriving their functional and social properties. After dividing the target period for the analysis of Pyongyang’s spatial configuration into three periods—the 1930s, the 1970s, and beginning in 2010—the city’s spatial configurations in each period were analyzed.

In the 1930s, Pyongyang was configured to accommodate various commercial business activities and Japanese military activities. In contrast, after the city’s reconstruction, during the 1970s and beginning in 2010, streets and squares were constructed and extended to form axes, with the objective of using the new spatial configurations to draw the public’s attention to political and symbolic functions flaunting the superiority of the regime, rather than to commercial business functions.

As these changes have been made to Pyongyang’s spatial configuration, city’s identity based on history and symbolism should be restored in an existing capitalist city lost its identity due to indiscriminate development that focused on commercial functions.

Besides, since the 1930s, some of the street axes that had been extended from railways or bridges had played important roles in enhancing access to Pyongyang.

Balanced urban development modeled on the micro-district plan implemented in Pyongyang offers a remedy for solving urban problems such as urban sprawl, urban overexpansion, and traffic congestion, and for planning more comfortable and sustainable urban spaces.

By reviewing Pyongyang’s changing spatial configurations, it was found that although Pyongyang is economically vulnerable, the city is considered a developing city with many advantages and possibilities.

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