A 7-Mile Rainbow for Kim Jong-il
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Ben Masterton-Smith, recipient of the inaugural RIBA Norman Foster Traveling Scholarship in 2007, visited North Korea for a period of architectural and spatial research. One of the many outcomes of that trip was Ben's diploma project, part of which proposed a farcical realization of a 7-mile rainbow reportedly seen on the occasion of Kim Jong-il's birth.
[Image: Assembling the rainbow; images by Ben Masterton-Smith].
Truckloads of vinyl are delivered to the capital city; teams of "volunteers" pump vast amounts of air into the unfolding structures—the imperial inflatable as architectural type; and, lo, the titanic pink and purple form ascends to its nostalgic place in the public firmament, assembled ring by ring across the sky.
[Image: The glorious 7-mile rainbow takes form].
While I have cherry-picked only one aspect of Ben's overall North Korean research project, and thus this might seem like a bit of a one-note flute, I have to say that the absurdly over-the-top scale of the proposal actually seems spot-on for an architectural critique of Kim Jong-il's surreal stage-managing of North Korean life.
In many ways, this spatial realization of the state's own ridiculous mythology serves as a sadly necessary—because totally delirious—over-compensation for the otherwise monumentally vacuous cityscapes of North Korean urbanism, as if the grotesque political spectacle of a pink rainbow soaring seven miles over the city might retroactively justify that city's empty stagecraft.
[Images: Rainbow diagrams by Ben Masterton-Smith].
In the annals of dictatorial natural history—where, apparently, "even nature is mourning" the death of Kim Jong-il—the tongue-in-cheek architectural manifestation of an otherwise impossible worldly phenomena acts not as celebration but as spatial parody. It is sarcasm, we might say, given architectural form.
[Image: The rainbow under construction; image by Ben Masterton-Smith].
In any case, a few more images from the project are available on Ben's Flickr page.