This border sharing trait with multiple countries surrounding it throughout makes it the largest landlocked country. Let us understand the place with a basic overview and a detailed review of each influence.

Tracing an Outline 

Kazakhstan, originally composed of nomadic people streaming in. The Kazakhs. The Mongols. The Turkic. The Russians. Many such tribes united to form the Kazakh Khanate. As a reflection of its nomadic past, it has a variety of drastic cultures peppered all over. Its land character varies from canyons to grasslands to deserts to cityscapes.

Astana was chosen as the capital post-Almaty in 1997. The architecture of Astana in particular flaunts a beautiful white mosque lined in golden, humongous futuristic spheres, pyramids, and beyond contemporary styled three-dimensional structures that draw its skyline. Astana is a planned capital city. This undiscovered, massively growing capital has witnessed transforming cultures, social conditions, political dynamics, and shooting modernization. 

All the above-mentioned influences layered themselves to form this beautiful city that exists in unspoken anonymity. Architecture has a significant role in writing Astana’s new narrative. Let’s understand each of these layers and how they shaped the skyline of Astana’s Architecture through its growing years. 

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An overview of this splendid capital_©Andrej Pugach

Picking a Historic Leaf From The Past

The history of Astana can be deciphered in three phases. Each of the phases has had an impact on the architecture of the place. 

a. Early years (1830–1918)

The first phase included traditional Kazakh encampments and buildings. The city was in its infant years, hardly having many advancements. Traditional settlements and monuments slowly started to develop. Yurts, monuments, mosques, and towers are examples.

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Astana ,then known as Akmolinsk along with an identity of a town status._©https://adebiportal.kz/en/news/view/list_of_astana_city%27s_history_and_cultural_monuments_part_i__5439
b. Soviet Era (1918–1991)

It was treated as a convenient route to carry goods and necessities during World War II. Post the war, it became a thriving economic revival with many Russian-Germans resettling here. In the 1960s, Astana; then called Tselinograd Oblast, was transformed entirely. The construction of the initial three high rise housing began in 1963.

The city progressed in the realms of infrastructure with several new monumental public buildings such as the Palace of Youth, Virgin Lands Palace, a House of Soviets, several sports venues, and a new airport.

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Astana’s airport built during the soviet times_©Alex J. Butler
c. Contemporary Era (1991–present)

In April 1998, an architecture competition was held for architects around the world to design the new capital, and Japanese architect, A.Kisho Kurokawa was selected to rewrite its design narrative. This third phase in the history of Astana revolves around the blooming modernization and is the epitome of futuristic buildings. It sets a fluent paradigm for the realm of futuristic energy-efficient structures. 

A skyline composed of multiple three-dimensional forms lined up creates a stunning capital with kind people in it.

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Bird’s eye view of Astana_©https://getaboutasia.com/blog/2019/07/30/crazy-astana-5-reasons-you-need-to-visit-kazakhstans-capital/

A Symphony of Cultures

The country in general is dissolved in a nomadic culture with a strong influence of Islam and a thick Russian accent in it. Astana in particular has a metropolitan culture with a cradle of multiple ethnic groups settling in. On 16th July 1999, UNESCO declared it as the “City of Peace”. Foreseeing the immense potential of this city, many institutions from Britain and Germany are setting up branches to increase value and mutually benefit one another. A city that possessed nomadic roots is inching towards a global community.

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Expo 2017_©https://www.localguidesconnect.com/t5/General-Discussion/Astana-Kazakhstan/td-p/207059

Demographics 

As of January 2020, the population of Astana was double of what it was in the year 2002. The statistics numbered up to 1136008 residents.

The city has a range of ethnic groups.

  • Kazakh: 80.6 %
  • Russian: 11.7 %
  • Ukranian: 1%
  • Tatar: 1.08%
  • Uzbek: 0.96%
  • Others: 4.65%

It has religions varying from Islam being the prominent one, Christianity, Judaism, and Buddhism. (Data from Wikipedia,2020)

The Trajectory of Architectural Styles

Every city has a unique fabric and on observation of these i.e the context it has built over time, the footsteps of its bricks, and native materials that headed towards a built habitat; we notice that the trajectory of architectural styles can be classified into three patterns. One, the cities that don’t step out of their past. Spaces that dwell in the comfort of time turning back. They are preserved and celebrated; these are the cities that remain, called the heritage cities.

Two, the moderates. Cities with a mix of old and new, with their spaces and city corners speaking myth, history, and modernity. Some parts of the city fizzled out of their original context to touch the advancements and unwrap technology. Three, the future bearers. Cities that shoot up and plunge into modernity. Beyond contemporary. Visualizing, building, and fixing a surreal futuristic dream. Astana falls into the third category. A city radiating fulfilling unreal expressions.

Let us look at how the energy-efficient, futuristic modern dream of Astana gradually progressed with this intangible element, time.

1. The Year 1996 – Baiterek tower

Baiterek, an observation tower, is a defining monument of Astana designed by Ar. Akmurza Rustembekov. The construction began in 1996 and was completed in 2002. The concept of the design was to signify Samruk, a mythical bird that laid her egg in the rift between two branches of the magical tree of life, as believed by the folks. 

The height of the observation deck is 97m above ground level. It is composed of two levels, one with panoramic views of Astana and beyond, with a second, higher level, that can be accessed by a staircase. This project was the pioneering force of designing a new city, concerning the celebration of a decade of independence of the former Soviet Union

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The symbolic Baiterek Tower at night_©Van Den Hoven
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A wider shot of the Baiterek Tower_©Eric Lafforgue
2. The Year 2001 – Ak Orda Presidential Palace

The Ak Orda translates to the white horde. The Presidential Palace is the official workplace of the country’s president. The construction of the Ak orda Presidential Palace was initiated in the year 2001 and was built within three years and has been functional since 2004. The structure functions as an official space alone and doesn’t hold a residential function. 

The palace holds a blue and gold dome capped with a beautiful spire. The golden statue above the dome encompasses a sun with 32 rays at its apex and an eagle flying beneath the sun as a reflection of the Kazakh flag.

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Floral gardens designed right in front of the presidential palace_©https://www.naadytravel.com/beautiful-palaces-world/ak-orda-presidential-palace-astana-kazakhstan/
3. The Year 2004 – Palace of Peace and Reconciliation

The Palace of Peace and Reconciliation, also known as the Pyramid of Peace and Accord is designed by Foster and Partners. The construction began in the year 2004 and took two years to be completed. It is 62-meter in height and is a recognizable exclusive pyramid in Astana. It serves as a non-denominational national spiritual center as well as an event venue. It is composed of a stained glass apex and windows by architectural artist Brian Clarke. 

The Palace was constructed to host the triennial Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions. The Pyramid of Peace embodies the soul of Kazakhstan, a city where cultures, traditions, and representatives of multiple nationalities coexist in a calming euphony.

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The landscaping of the presidential park arises to envelope the lower levels_©Amusing planet
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Sun-kissed Apex_©Sergey Martsyniuk
4. The Year 2008 – Nur-Astana Mosque

The Nur-Astana Mosque is an enchanting white mosque draped in bold golden lines stroking the dome. It is the third-largest mosque in central Asia. The height of the mosque and the height of the minarets are a number-reflection of the story of the Islam prophet Muhammad, they are 40 meters and 63 meters referring to the age he enlightened and the age he died respectively. 

It is designed by Ar. Charles Hadife and it has an indoor capacity of 5,000 worshippers and an outdoor capacity of 2,000 worshippers. The structure is made of concrete, glass, granite, and alucobond measures. The mosque was a present, honouring the agreement of the Kazakhstan President and the Emir of Qatar.

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A serene water body in front of the entrance_©https://www.wallpaperflare.com/mosques-nur-astana-mosque-wallpaper-cjvdq
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Golden dome highlight_©https://www.trip.com/travel-guide/nur-sultan/nur-astana-mosque-56069307/
5. The Year 2010 – Khan Shatyr Entertainment Centre

Khan Shatyr translates to “The tent of the Khan” and is rooted in the tent and nomadic culture of Kazakhstan. It is designed in the neo-futurist style and was designed by Foster and partners.  It is a large-scale park consisting of squares, shopping and entertainment venues, a boating river, cobbled streets, a shopping center, an indoor beach resort, and minigolf.

The exterior is skinned with a transparent material that permits sunlight through; in combination with air heating and cooling systems and stack effect, it is efficiently designed to possess a thermal balance and provide extreme comfort regardless of the inhospitable climatic conditions outside.

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the transparent tent-like structure celebrated with pink lights_©http://archicture.blogspot.com/2017/01/futuristic-architecture-khan-shatyr.html
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Interior of the Khan Shatyr_©http://archicture.blogspot.com/2017/01/futuristic-architecture-khan-shatyr.html

6. Year 2012 – Hazrat Sultan Mosque

Hazrat Sultan translates to Holy Sultan, and it is the largest mosque in central Asia. It has the largest dome in the country with a diameter at the base of the dome of 28.1 meters and a height of 51 meters. It has eight smaller domes and four minarets. It covers up to 11 hectares and 1000-1500 workers were involved in the construction in differing timeframes. 

It is constructed in the traditional Islamic style and embellished with native Kazakh ornaments. It is a rare mosque that has a chandelier within. 

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Chalk like white beauty against a stunning blue sky_©Michaela Cross

7. Year 2014 – National Museum of the Republic of Kazakhstan

The National Museum of the Republic of Kazakhstan is a symbol of its culture and tradition. The museum is situated on the prime square of the country; The Independence Square. It is the largest splendid museum complex that covers an area of 74,000 square meters and is composed of seven blocks. 

This Contemporary museum strives to be an interactive space and pushes the user into dialogues with space. It acts as an important medium to have active conversations with Kazakh history.

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Neo futuristic Museum_©https://kazakhstan.travel/threedtours
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Opulent interiors_©https://dookshare.com/almaty-travel-information/national-museum-of-the-republic-of-kazakhstan-2/

8. Year 2017- Expo 2017

The world expo 2017 was successfully organized in Astana with the theme being Future energy. Over a hundred established design firms participated in a competition to design the structure and grounds for the expo 2017, and the official contract was handed over to a

Chicago firm Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture (AS+GG). 

It is the world’s largest building which is spherical and is 8 storeyed. In resonance with the theme of EXPO 2017 “Future Energy”, Nur Alem’s facade integrated photovoltaic elements that form electricity from the solar energy along with two noiseless wind generators capping the sphere.

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Nur Alem_©https://www.iter.org/newsline/-/2741
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Future energy being embodied in a sphere_©https://kalpak-travel.com/blog/10-reasons-visit-astana-expo-2017/

Astana is undoubtedly an astonishing reality. A rapidly growing city that is extremely conscious of its energy efficiency. It is re-writing a new narrative that is mind-blowing. Astana is a definite spot to explore travel, architecture, and culture. It is a land of futuristic magic, one that will throw you into a kind and swiftly developed city that makes you think, process, and leave with a fulfilling futuristic memory.

References

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Author

Vajjrashri Anand is an architecture student who reads places and people like a story worth being told. She believes architecture is a lot like life; made of wonder, beauty and hurt. She strives to constantly evolve. A nuisance, a delight. A sting, a smile. She's a soul hugging one word at a time.

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