Capital Gains

By Wheatley, Malcolm | PM Network, November 2009 | Go to article overview

Capital Gains


Wheatley, Malcolm, PM Network


Kazakhstan's capitai makes a statement homage to the country's ancient nomadic with a soaring new structure that pays culture. by Malcolm Wheatley

When Kazakhstan's capital was relocated from Almaty to the small city of Tselinograd in 1998, the very notion of the Khan Shatyr Entertainment Center would have seemed ridiculous.

Not any more.

The once-provincial town located on the country's bleak northern steppes has been transformed into a cosmopolitan metropolis now called Astana. In less than a decade, the city's population had more than doubled to over 600,000. And that number is expected to top 1 million by 2030.

out with the old

Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev has spearheaded Astana's growth, pouring in an estimated US$15 billion to create a futuristic city filled with novel projects.

Astana's old Soviet-era buildings are gradually being replaced with massive marble sculptures, gigantic glass pyramids and other innovative structures like the Khan Shafyr Entertainment Center, already dubbed the "biggest tent in the world."

As their new capital emerges from the steppes, "many ordinary Kazakhs are very proud of what is now looking like a very modern capital," says Saule Mukhametrakhimova, Central Asia program manager and online editor at Institute for War & Peace Reporting, London, England. "Even the Western diplomatic missions, who were originally worried about the lack of infrastructure and harsh climate, have now moved there."

it's a small world

Much like Astana itself, the Khan Shatyr Entertainment Center is a global affair. Renowned British architect Lord Norman Foster of London-based Foster + Partners developed the design for the conical structure. And Sembol, a Turkish design, construction and project management firm, is responsible for the actual building process.

inside the tent

Bent as if under the force of strong winds, the tent-like structure is supported by a 150meter (492-foot) -high tripod with a 60-meter (197-foot) -high vertical back leg and two 70-meter (230-foot) splayed front legs.

"The 'tent' concept was a response to the inhospitable climate of Astana. Temperatures can fall as low as -35 degrees Celsius (-31 degrees Fahrenheit) in winter and reach 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) in summer," says Filo Russo, a Foster + Partners partner closely involved with the project. …

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