Area (floor): 360,000 sq m
Population: none unto eternity, in all likelihood
Height: 330 m
Rank among world's tallest buildings: 24
Remarkably inapt meaning of name: "Capital of Willows"
Snuggly nestled into the bosom of North Korea's capital, Pyongyang, the Ryugyong Hotel was a classic example of Cold War oneupsmanship. After a company from South Korea built the Westin Stamford Hotel, then the world's largest hotel, in Singapore, their rival sibling to the north was inspired to do them one better. The government commissioned a project to build the new world's tallest hotel as a groundbreaking effort to attract foreign investment, and to establish a towering symbol of the nation's glory.
Construction on the pyramid-shaped scheme began in 1987, and continued apace for the next five years. Wikipedia describes the building thus:
The reinforced concrete structure consists of three wings, the face of each wing measuring 100 m (328 ft) long and 18 m (59 ft) wide, which converge at a common point to form a pinnacle. At the top is a 40 m (131 ft) wide circular structure which contains eight floors intended to rotate, topped by a further six static floors. A construction crane is perched at the top, and has assumed the role of a permanent fixture. The hotel is surrounded by a number of pavilions, gardens, and terraces. Its walls slope at a steep 75 degree angle.By 1992, the government had spent three-quarters of a billion dollars on the thing, or about 2% of North Korea's GDP. Such was the regime's pride in the edifice that it was bedecking the nation's postage stamps before it was even halfway built.
And then the project began to fail. Unsurprisingly, given the enormous relative scale of the project, funding increasingly became an issue. There were electrical problems. The elevators never quite worked, and a famine in 1990 disrupted the government's plans. There are evidently serious structural problems with the building as well, as the low-quality concrete of which it is built has proved unable to support it's enormous scale. The official line is that the project ran out of money - itself a significant concession to reality for a government that is loathe to reveal any sort of weakness. In 1992, construction was finally brought to a halt. The shell of the building has loomed over Pyongyang ever since, without windows or lights, a preposterous icon of the state and a metaphor for the hollowness of the ambitions of the North Korean regime. In recent years, the government has been airbrushing the building out of official photos.
Work, of a sort, re-commenced on the building in 2008, as an Egyptian firm was seen to be touching up the top floors of the hotel. A North Korean official has said that the building will be renovated by 2012, in time for the 100th anniversary of Kim Il Sung's birth. A spokesman for the Egyptian firm, Orascom, has indicated a relatively modest goal of "redo[ing] the facade to make it more attractive." Retouching the facade: at this late date, that's about all that the government can do.
(For more Abandoned Wonders of Asia, check out this fantastic list from Web Urbanist.)