Ryugyong Hotel

The Ryugyong Hotel dominates the Pyongyang skyline but is uninhabitable.

© iStockphoto.com/narvikk

­Esquire magazine called it "The Worst Building in the History of Mankind" [source: Hagberg]. It's also been called the "Hotel of Doom," the "Phantom Hotel" and the "world's worst building"­ [source: Herskovitz]. It's the Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang, North Korea. This 105-story monstrosity rises 330 meters (1,082 feet) into the air, composed of three slabs that meet at the building's apex, forming a sort of pyramid [source: emporis].

The building was intended to be a 3,000-room hotel. It's among the world's tallest skyscrapers and could be considered the world's tallest hotel, except that it hasn't been used as a hotel -- or anything else. That's because the Ryugyong Hotel has never been completed, although it has been built to its intended height.

Construction began in 1987 and stopped in 1992 after North Korea spent as much as 2 percent of its GDP on the project and funding dried up [source: Hagberg]. Exact figures are difficult to get, owing to the communist government's extraordinarily repressive and secretive nature, but North Korean GDP was estimated to be $21.3 billion in 1994, and 2 percent of that is $426 million [source: CIA World Factbook].

The unattractive gray building is certainly a white elephant. The North Korean government routinely airbrushes it out of official photos, despite initially bragging about the building in state-run media and distributing postage stamps featuring its image.

­Work on the building resumed in 2008 with an Egyptian company called Orascom entrusted with refurbishing the moribund hotel. But even if they complete the interior, some experts wonder if the Ryugyong's apparently shoddy construction will ever be safe enough to be occupied.