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Old August 6th, 2009, 07:58 PM   #1
Major Deegan
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 8,836
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Faux-regionalism dominates place-making in Kazakhstan

Предлагаю отрывок моей статьи в дизайн журнале Университета Миннесоты о состоянии современной архитектуры Казахстана. Иллюстрации для этого треда были взяты у форумера KWI за что ему большое спасибо.

The amount of tacky, pseudo-historicist and faux-regionalist architecture being built in Kazakhstan is not just mind-boggling, it is extremely alarming. What does the nation's current architectural situation hold for future generations of city builders?

Exhibit 1. Rixos Hotel in central Almaty.

Originally Posted by KWI View Post

While it is uncommon for contextualist architects to borrow historic elements from adjacent structures in a unifying gesture, they are usually the result of a thoughtful and rigorous study of those existing buildings - their own stylistic influences, the prevailing building technology of the era, the aims of the original architects, the culture and zeitgeist of the people who made them, and so on.

At Rixos Hotel, the designers proffered to rampage the history books of all western architecture - likely whatever was at hand, or perhaps those examples that reflected the predilections of the developer. While the selected ornament and articulation re-inscribes components of earlier architectural periods - roman arches with projecting keystones for example - they are, in actuality, wholly foreign to this part of Almaty.

Buildings like Rixos Hotel are salient examples of placemaking that has crossed the line from sensitive contextualism into historicist stereotyping. Instead of using heavy and solid materials of the Tsarist and earlier Soviet epochs, architects limited themselves to Styrofoam coated with a thin veneer and acrylic stucco. The plastic exterior complete with corner watch towers, fake Italian balconies and a rainbow of colors are a little more than a stagecraft, carrying with it all the durability and gravitas of a Legoland castle.

Exhibit 2. An office building in central Almaty. This must be Kazakhstan's overdue answer to Belle Epoque style.

Originally Posted by KWI View Post
Exhibit 3. Romance City, Astana (currently under construction).

All images courtesy of Bazis-A Corporation.

According to the developer's website Romance City is
place where Europe and Asia meet.

Indeed, covering
136 acres of land directly across the Ishim river and presidential residence, the 7 blocks of the development represent seven architectuaral styles: English, French, Italian, European, Middle Eastern, Japanese, Chinese. Each district contains its own culture of architecture, landscape, restaurants and shops. While something like this may have worked for a Disney-themed entertainment park, it does not really come across as fitting in the urban fabric of the nation's capital.

Sadly, this kind of cut-and-paste, Mr. Potatohead approach is the norm in today's Kazakhstani commercial architecture. Drive along any of Astana's major thoroughfares, and you'll find all manner of variation of stylistic pastiche - from German medieval-styled lifestyle centers to Venetian cheesecake factories, to Chinese pagodas. The pursuit of a selling in a post-soviet economical frenzy, architectural "theme" dominates all of the more subtle aspects that make buildings great places to be - good daylight, durable and substantial materials, human-scaled features, and a clear and navigable organization, to name a few.

The biggest casualties of thematic architecture are those aspects of design that make a building a worthy and inspiring place of human occupation. Elegance, simplicity, poetry, proportion, balance, harmony, and even wit: none stand a chance against the over-aching drive to apply a sellable surface style to our buildings and landscapes. In essence, we are engulfed in a national quest to find a more interesting slip cover for the same, uninspiring communist boxes we've been building for decades.

Last edited by Major Deegan; August 7th, 2009 at 12:32 AM.
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