Commercial photographer Raphael Olivier recently travelled to Pyongyang and created a fantastic photo essay exploring the suspended reality of North Korea’s vintage socialist architecture.

North Korea is one of the most secretive and isolated countries in the world. Getting into the country is notoriously difficult but that could be set to change.

‘I’ve travelled to many parts of the world, even off the beaten track countries like Afghanistan, Iran and Bangladesh, but this place was unlike anything I’d ever seen before,’ say Raphael.

For his series entitled “Vintage Socialist Architecture”, Raphael spent a week exploring the notoriously secretive nation’s capital, and documenting its spectacular architecture, unique pastel colours, perfect symmetry, furniture from a different age and a kitsch aesthetic.

Their style is based on austere Soviet architecture, as the USSR helped rebuilding work after the Korean War.

Pyongyang, capital city of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (a.k.a North Korea), is home to about 3 milion people and only visited by a small number of tourists each year due to the so-called “closed” status of the country. However this is not exactly true and the DPRK is gradually opening up to international travel with visitors from all backgrounds coming in increasing numbers. Those who do make it to Pyongyang only come to find a surprizingly beautiful city full of large avenues, green parks and spectacular architecture. Almost completely destroyed during the Korean War (1950 – 1953), Pyongyang raised from its ashes in the 1960’s and 70’s with the help of local architects and designers often trained in the Soviet Union, resulting in impressive structures marked by influences of constructivist, modernist, futurist and brutalist architectural styles. This photo essay aims to give a small insight into the beautifully preserved vintage socialist architecture of Pyongyang, one of the most isolated and unknown cities in the world.

– Raphael Olivier














Enjoy also his “Largest Abandoned Town in China” series.

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