It appears that the architect of Terminal 2 of North Korea’s international airport, Ma Won Chun, was executed because the Dear Leader failed to appreciate the design. This according to “Kim Jong Un EXECUTES airport architect because he did not like the design,” by Steve White in the Mirror.
The other day Kim and his wife toured the new facility, expected to open this week. Not many people probably noticed the absence of the architect from Kim’s entourage. Ma was executed last November as part of a larger purge for “corrupt practices and failure to follow orders.” Here is a statement that contains Kim’s indictment of the design:
“Defects were manifested in the last phase of the construction of the Terminal 2 because the designers failed to bear in mind the party’s idea of architectural beauty that is the life and soul and core in architecture to preserve the character and national identity,” Kim said, according to NKNews’ transcript of a state media report.
This is not especially chilling only because it is North Korea. Who knows why the guy really had to hang at the end of a rope (or got a bullet in the base of the neck)? It is not the way architects, not even celebrity modernists, usually die in civilized nations.
Imagine if architects here could be executed for “failing to bear in mind the party’s idea of architectural beauty.” Who would “the party” be? The AIA?
In most countries, including America, architects would be at wit’s end to figure out how to avoid execution. They would have to rely on the ability of the “jury” to look deeply into the architect’s ego and measure his zeal to reach the apogee of novelty, rather than judging him according to some culturally determined and generally explicable set of design rules. Pity his lawyer! Figuring out a useful defense strategy for a modernist would be no easier than trying to figure out a rationale for the latest Pritzker Prize selection.
So, while most Americans would probably draw their fingers across their necks to signal their assignment of fate to the architects of their built environment, let us hope it never comes to pass literally, as it seems to have done in Pyongyang.