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Old October 16th, 2006, 07:56 AM   #1
hkskyline
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Kazakhstan's Architectural Ambitions

FEATURE-Kazakhstan's new architecture puts pomp first
By Michael Steen

ASTANA, Oct 16 (Reuters) - Oh, and we want an opera house in the basement.

That was the message given to British architect Lord Norman Foster by the president of Kazakhstan four months into designing a pyramid in the Central Asian state's capital, Astana.

The resulting 62-metre (203-feet) high Pyramid of Peace and Accord, constructed in less than two years, juts out into the barren plain behind President Nursultan Nazarbayev's palace.

Sounds odd? Astana, a Brasilia of the steppe, is like that.

Nazarbayev moved the capital city here in 1997 and has poured billions of dollars of revenues from oil, gas and metals exports into the construction of a new city in the middle of the vast, empty heartland of the world's ninth largest country.

The pyramid is the first building in Astana designed by a big-name architect like Foster, famous among other things for the glass cupola on Berlin's Reichstag and the Swiss Re tower in London that is nicknamed the "gherkin".

Nazarbayev commissioned his pyramid to host a congress of world religious leaders, an event he dreamt up in order to put Kazakhstan on the map as a serious player in global affairs, a sign that it is not just another ex-Soviet state.

Foster, 71, squeezed in the 1,500 seat opera house -- a bit bigger than one at Glyndebourne in Britain -- as well as offices, "hanging gardens", and a huge atrium.

The pyramid is topped by a transparent peak where a doughnut-shaped meeting table hovers in mid-air.

"It was quite challenging," he told Reuters by telephone from Foster and Partners in London. "Typically you would be thinking six to eight years for such a cultural project."

"If somebody says 'hey there's this congress meeting point/public space/university/exhibition space and we need it in two years', you know, that makes your pulse quicken and slightly takes your breath away," he said.

"If you then, four months into that process, say 'well, we'd like to put a Glyndebourne in, sorry it's a bit bigger than Glyndebourne, but we'd like to put it underneath ..."

He trails off.

UP INTO THE LIGHT

For an architect known for his use of neutral colours and glass and steel, it is also something of a departure as most of the building is windowless, with only the apex clad in glass.

Sunlight filtered by yellow and blue stained glass windows designed by Brian Clarke, a British artist and long-term Foster collaborator, streams down into the pyramid's cavernous atrium.

The opera house below is predominantly red. Perhaps heaven and hell are not the right comparisons, but Foster describes his building in symbolic terms.

"As you ascend up the pyramid you ascend up into the light," he said.

Another Foster theme -- breathtaking vertical drops that are enough to give most people wobbly legs -- is certainly present.

From the doughnut-shaped dais suspended at the top of the pyramid there is a sheer drop down to the ground floor of the atrium, which is also the roof of the opera house.

Foster said he was intrigued at the prospect of building a pyramid that would be "so light that it will appear to float away" in contrast to the massive and solid historical pyramids.

He declined to comment on the rest of Astana's architecture, but his pyramid certainly stands out, both as a gesture by Nazarbayev and as a piece of architecture.

"It's an unbelievable folly, in the sense that it's a grand monument by one man to himself," said Hugh Pearman, editor of the Royal Institute of British Architects' monthly RIBA Journal. "(But) it has merit."

STEPPE CHANGE

The city rapidly developing around the pyramid, built according to a master plan laid out by Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa, is not -- yet -- loved by the locals, the richer of whom try to escape to the former capital Almaty in the south at weekends.

The left bank of the Ishim river that bisects the city consists of Nazarbayev's palace, ministries, monuments, and building sites while the more lively right bank comprises mainly Soviet-era residential buildings and the old town centre.

A bracing wind blows all year round, bringing temperatures that can hit 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in the summer and sink to minus 40 C (-40 F) in the winter -- another factor that complicates construction.

Most new buildings in Astana glitter with reflective surfaces or bewilder the eye with intricate colonnades and other baubles. The style is politely termed post-modernism by architects.

There is also a trend to hark back to Soviet architecture. One new tower block is a garish modern replica of one of the "Stalin skyscrapers" in Moscow -- right here at the heart of the gulag archipelago where the Soviet dictator sent millions to die.

For an architect like Foster the pyramid was not only an entry into a market awash in petrodollars -- he is now involved in a proposal for an enormous indoor leisure centre dubbed the Khan's tent -- it was also a chance to experiment.

"For a British architect, the fact that you will see your vision completed in like 18 months is a powerful inducement," said Pearman, the architecture critic. "He can use Astana as a testing ground ... it can be regarded as rapid prototyping."

In the weeks running up to the opening at the beginning of September and the religious congress, workers hired by the Turkish constructors toiled around the clock to get things finished. Several hundred soldiers were drafted in to help out.

The result is certainly rough around the edges. The odd leak in the roof, missing screws, splintered glass panes and a lot of building dust and debris, but that is common in Kazakhstan.

"Not surprisingly there's a long snagging list of things to be properly finished and tidied up and sorted out," Foster said.

Pearman, who visited the site during construction, described it as the scariest he had seen in terms of safety, but added that Western architects faced the choice of working with local conditions or not working at all in countries like Kazakhstan.

And does he feel that the pyramid improves Astana?

"The city doesn't at the moment feel like a friendly place, it feels very much like an administrative centre," he said. "One craves a little corner cafe or something like that. But it's early days."
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Old October 20th, 2006, 02:18 AM   #2
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i need to see this
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Old October 23rd, 2006, 04:51 PM   #3
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Any pics?
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Old October 23rd, 2006, 05:17 PM   #4
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Here is a website with more information :
http://www.astana.dan.kz/sez/sez_angl/new_siti.htm

There has been a lot of debate over moving the capital from Almaty and building a monumental new capital in Astana. One reason why the capital moved was due to Almaty's proximity to China.
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Old October 23rd, 2006, 05:29 PM   #5
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Peace pyramid in Astana

photos by Tienshan http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaelsteen/















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Old October 24th, 2006, 06:54 AM   #6
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More photos :
http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=401028
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Old October 25th, 2006, 01:45 AM   #7
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All Photos - Text Copyright Foster + Partners

Palace of Peace and Reconciliation - Astana, Kazakhstan

Quote:
In September 2003, Kazakhstan - the largest of the former Soviet Republics - hosted the inaugural Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions in the new capital, Astana. Spurred by its success, the President of Kazakhstan decided to make it a triennial event. Following an international competition, the practice was commissioned to design a permanent venue for the Congress - the Palace of Peace. The building is conceived as a global centre for religious understanding, the renunciation of violence and the promotion of faith and human equality.

In addition to representing all the worlds religious faiths, the Palace houses a 1,500- seat opera house, a university of civilisation, and a national centre for Kazakhstans various ethnic and geographical groups. This programmatic diversity is unified within the pure form of a pyramid, 62 metres high with a 62 x 62-metre base. Clad in stone, with glazed inserts that allude to the various internal functions, the pyramid has an apex of stained glass by the artist Brian Clarke. Spatially, it is organised around a soaring central atrium, which is animated with spectacular cast light patterns. The assembly chamber is elevated at the top, supported on four inclined pillars - the hands of peace. Lifts rise up the inward leaning walls to take delegates to a reception space lined with vegetation the hanging gardens of Astana - from where they ascend to the chamber via a winding ramp. A broad glass lens set in the floor of the atrium casts light down into the auditorium of the opera house and creates a sense of vertical continuity from the lowest level of the building to the very top.

The Astanian climate posed a significant challenge, with an annual range from 40c in summer to -40c in winter. The construction schedule is extraordinarily rapid - the Palace is to be completed in time for the Meeting of the Second Congress in 2006. This led the design team to develop a structural solution that utilises prefabricated components, which can be manufactured off site during the winter months and erected during the summer. The entire process, from briefing to completion will have taken just twenty-one months.

Client: Sembol Construction
Consultants: Buro Happold (London), Arce (Istanbul), GN Engineering & HB Technik (Istanbul), DS Mimarlik, Studio Dinnebier (Berlin), Brian Clarke, Karina Fire Consultants (Ankara), Sound Space Design
















Source: Foster + Partners: Projects

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Old October 25th, 2006, 02:55 AM   #8
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sheer brilliance
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Old October 26th, 2006, 11:58 PM   #9
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In Borat's land?
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Old October 27th, 2006, 12:05 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Détritus View Post
In Borat's land?

I think it is a shame and a disgrace that this ridiculous character has had so much success in defaming and disgracing a good and proud country.
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Old October 27th, 2006, 12:15 AM   #11
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yeah this can't be right can it....no way borat comes from this good looking place....that movie is soooo sad you gotta laugh about it, altough i can understand perfectly that people and government of Kazachstan don't like it one bit!
"This pyramid combines architecture of Louvre pyramid with BoC or Hearst tower in NYC..."
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Old October 27th, 2006, 12:25 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Maltaboy View Post
I think it is a shame and a disgrace that this ridiculous character has had so much success in defaming and disgracing a good and proud country.
I think he makes more fun of the deep USA than Kazakhstan.
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Old October 22nd, 2007, 07:07 AM   #13
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ANALYSIS-Global credit crunch snaps Kazakh building boom

ALMATY, Oct 10 (Reuters) - The global credit crunch is taking its toll on Kazakhstan's long-booming construction sector, silencing building sites and putting pressure on the Central Asian state's already highly leveraged banks.

The sharp rise around the world in lenders' risk aversion, induced by defaults on U.S. home loans, has hit Kazakhstan hard and raised refinancing risks for its banks that have relied heavily on foreign debt to fund growth.

Unable to secure funding, many construction companies have cut their activities, bringing their building sites to a standstill in the financial capital Almaty and elsewhere.

"There are estimates that up to 90 percent of construction companies' activities are being funded through borrowing," National Bank Chairman Anvar Saidenov told reporters this week.

Like many other ex-Soviet states, Kazakhstan has been rapidly rebuilding its ageing infrastructure on the back of high oil revenues, with construction sites of new roads, hotels, offices and shopping malls sprouting across the country.

Now the boom is beginning to fizzle out in a country where almost a quarter of all domestic lending goes to the building sector, analysts say. Construction accounted for just over eight percent of Kazakhstan's $80 billion economy in 2006.

"Kazakhstan is not a very diversified economy and on the domestic side the most developed sectors have been banking and construction," said Okan Akin, an analyst with Bear Stearns.

"Most probably we'll see the full impact of this in the next six months." However, the Kazakh central bank believes the worst liquidity problems are over, while acknowledging the 10 percent economic growth target for this year will probably not be met.

SQUEEZE

Players on the real estate market say the volume of deals fell dramatically after property prices peaked in the summer.

According to real estate company Absolut, the average price of a square metre in Almaty fell five percent in September and a further three percent so far this month to $3,400.

"One of the banks we spoke to estimated the real estate market could end up clearing 40 percent lower," said one Western analyst who visited Kazakhstan earlier this month.

Analysts say it will take time for the market to recover. The government is stepping up efforts to provide a cushion for the slowing growth by helping refinance banks' mortgages.

"The government will take necessary measures," said Kazakh Economy Minister Bakhyt Sultanov.

"We are currently examining the possibility of adding capital to the State Mortgage Company which can provide additional liquidity for banks by refinancing their loans."

Some analysts said the exposed weakness of Kazakhstan's financial architecture, coupled with the government's unresolved row with a Western consortium developing a big oilfield in the Caspian Sea, has hurt investor sentiment.

But Grigory Marchenko, head of Kazakhstan's least affected bank, Halyk Bank, said those problems are exaggerated.

"The economy remains very liquid. Those who borrowed a lot abroad ... are facing problems: same with construction companies," said Marchenko, a former central bank chairman.

He said Halyk has extended credits to 25 construction companies with a total of 35 building sites. "None of those sites have been stopped. Everything is working," he said.

However, the squeeze has been felt by ordinary Kazakhs and local newspapers tell stories of workers protesting about unpaid salaries.

"Many of us have taken out loans," the Vremya newspaper quoted one worker, Yerken Baltabayev, as saying. "Because we are not getting paid on time we can't repay our debts to the banks."

(Additional reporting by Maria Golovnina)
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Old July 7th, 2008, 10:20 AM   #14
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Kazakhstan's 10-year-old capital celebrates founder Nazarbayev
4 July 2008
Agence France Presse

An orgy of song, dance and fireworks will envelop Astana on Sunday honouring the 10th anniversary of the Kazakh capital as well as the leader it symbolises, President Nursultan Nazarbayev, officials said.

Celebrations got in full swing well ahead of the official anniversary, which was moved to coincide with the 68th birthday of a man who has made clear his claim to a place in history books, Kazakhstan's first president, Nazarbayev.

"Astana: the most beloved heart that beats in unison with the rest of the country," trumpeted banners flying all over the capital as concerts and speeches got into full flow.

With disarming frankness, the city mayor's office said a key aim of the festivities was "the positioning of Kazakhstan's first president as a world-class leader."

Local student Aigul Sharapova, working at a welcome booth for the festivities, observed wryly that "we must be alone in the world in having a holiday of this size to mark the president's birthday. You've got to admit he does everything here."

And earlier Nazarbayev told visiting lawmakers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe that Astana was not merely the capital of oil-rich Kazakhstan but of "Eurasia," an ill-defined area generally thought to take in a swathe of neighbouring states.

In charge of Kazakhstan since Soviet times, Nazarbayev has clung to power through a string of referenda and elections, none of which has been given a clean bill of health by Western observers.

Emphasising his ambition, the city's main landmark is a lollipop-shaped column crowned by a golden globe, in which visitors can place their own hand in a mould of the president's hand, prompting a burst of pre-recorded song composed by Nazarbayev.

Officials emphasise that Nazarbayev also personally redesigned the city's coat of arms and flag.

And few here stray from the official view of his achievement, even if Astana's bizarre architectural ensemble can take some getting used to.

In a speech ahead of the anniversary the mayor of the former capital, Almaty, argued that each building in Astana, whether it resembled a cigarette lighter or a wave, or mimicked ancient Egypt or the age of Stalin, reflected the glory of Kazakhstan and the genius of Nazarbayev.

"The president not only took the initiative to transfer the capital. He personally led this grand construction, becoming the architect-in-chief.

"Astana's triumph should be the object of scientific research," said the mayor, Akhmetjan Esimov, at a conference entitled "Astana: the Triumph of Kazakhstan and its Leader."

Despite such accolades, Nazarbayev last month turned down a proposal by lawmakers that the city's name be changed from functional Astana, meaning "capital," to "Nursultan."

"The question of changing the name is for another generation," said Nazarbayev.

Despite this modest gesture, he has permitted the construction of a museum in his honour, where visitors can see his excellent school reports and a genealogy proving his relationship to a 12th century Kazakh military hero, Karasai Batyr.

"The decision to create the museum came of course from Nursultan Nazarbayev, who wanted residents to see how the head of state lives and works," explained a museum guide, Akmaral Karmanova.
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Old July 10th, 2008, 12:07 AM   #15
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FORWARD Kazakshtan FORWARD !!!



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Old July 11th, 2008, 12:41 PM   #16
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Giant tent to be built in Astana designed by Foster



The completion of the dome is expected in 12 months
Kazakhstan has unveiled a new architectural project for its capital Astana - a giant transparent tent that will contain an indoor city.

The 150m-high (500ft) dome, designed by UK architect Norman Foster, will be built in just over a year.



The tent is being made from special material that absorbs sunlight to create the effect of summer inside.



Astana lies in the very heart of the Central Asian steppe. Temperatures there often drop to -30C in the winter.



'Difficult project'

The final shape of the world's biggest tent was revealed in a 3D model by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

A 3D model of the tent
Astana could have its own beach all year round

Underneath, in an area larger than 10 football stadiums, will be a city with squares and cobbled streets, canals, shopping centres and golf courses.

The idea is to recreate summer, so that when the outside temperature is -30C, the residents of the Kazakh capital can play outdoor tennis, take boat rides or sip coffee on the pavement cafes.

Called Khan Shatyry, the project is designed by Lord Foster, who has recently built a giant glass pyramid in Astana.

"Nothing of the sort has been done before, and from the engineering point of view it's an extremely difficult project," says Fettah Tamince, the head of Turkey's development company Sembol that is building the tent.

Mr Tamince is nevertheless confident the company can complete the construction in just 12 months.

'Huge risk'

It is a hugely ambitious undertaking, but so is Astana itself.

map

It was just over 10 years ago that President Nazarbayev decided to move the capital from Almaty to the very heart of Kazakhstan.

Since then the government says it has spent $15bn (£7.7bn) on construction, although some believe the figure is actually much higher.

For this oil rich state, which is an increasingly important global energy player, cash is not a problem.

Still, Mr Nazarbayev recently told the BBC that moving the capital was the riskiest step he had ever taken, and that Astana was one of his biggest achievements.

"It was a huge risk, and I took it intuitively," Mr Nazarbayev said.

"I put everything at stake, including my career and my name. I knew if I had failed it would be a fatal failure, but the success would also be the real success."

At the time, the president added, no-one seemed to believe that he would be able to create a real city in the steppe.

But the Astana skyline still looks more surreal than real - with its marble palaces, shining skyscrapers, metal structures and abstract statues, all surrounded by vast, snow covered emptiness.

Soon, rising above it all, will be the illuminated glass dome of the Khan Shatyry - an appropriate addition, it seems, to Astana's oil-money fuelled architectural extravaganza.
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Old July 11th, 2008, 12:44 PM   #17
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ASTANA INDOOR CITY - BATYGAI

Location:
Millenium Axis, Astana, Kazakhstan.
Period: 2006-2010
Cost: 1.5 billion USD
Status: Approved

Team:
Developer: FTG Development (UAE)
Architect: Aybak Architecture (Turkey)
Construction: SML

image hosted on flickr


Indoor City will be an indoor core of the development that will accommodate the retail, entertainment and the cultural facilities with references to town centers of different cities like Venice, Prague, Marrakech and Istanbul.
image hosted on flickr
image hosted on flickr
image hosted on flickr

Indoor City is a development concept with an indoor urban center and surrounding areas. The Urban Center will feature shopping centers, educational facilities, social facilities such as cinemas, theatres, library, museum and opera halls, health facilities, religious facilities, service facilities, including bank offices and post office, restaurants, cafes, bars, open spaces, gardens, rivers and car parking.
image hosted on flickr
image hosted on flickr
image hosted on flickr

There are going to be residential dwellings, hotel and office development and car parking associated with these uses in the surrounding areas. The residential development will include residence towers and villa type housing complete with parking, sports facilities and fitness and SPA.

Threr is also going to be a five star hotel and office towers in the surrounding areas will have direct access to the indoor urban center with weather controlled tunnels.
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Old July 11th, 2008, 12:47 PM   #18
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Astana Markets by Foster

Astana, Kazakhstan

General Information

Location
Left bank of Ishim River, Astana, Kazakhstan
Land total
550 000 sq. m.
Height, m388
Floors
88
Architects
Foster and Partners (Norman Foster), United Kingdom
Developer
Aldar, UAE
Construction start
Q1 2008
Construction end
2011

image hosted on flickr




Project Brief

Astana Markets is a major mixed-use development, located near presidential palace in the centre of Astana, comprising of a retail podium, integrated plaza, residential apartments, international grade office accommodation, and a hotel quarter. This integrated community will be a 24 hour destination, offering complete leisure and work solutions for the residents of Astana Markets.
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Old July 11th, 2008, 12:50 PM   #19
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The Foster Towers

Developer: Capital Partners (Kazakhstan)
Construction: ENKA (Turkey)
Design: Foster And Partners (UK)

image hosted on flickr


The Almaty Financial District Fosters Towers will be the tallest building in Kazakhstan when completed. The project is scheduled to open in 2009 and will comprise of two 48 storey office towers, residential apartments and a retail element. The three combined components of the scheme will be served by a shared underground car park offering approximately 1,600 parking spaces, distributed over three underground levels.

image hosted on flickr


image hosted on flickr


image hosted on flickr


image hosted on flickr


Few architecture firms are fortunate enough to have the exceptionally high brand awareness and international reputation enjoyed by Norman Fosters and Partners, whose masterplan will change the skyline of the city with this landmark project. It will form Phase 4 of the incredibly ambitious Almaty Financial District project.

image hosted on flickr


Situated to the north of the city’s major access route, Al-Farabi Avenue, the Towers site will be positioned directly opposite the earlier phases of the Almaty Financial District and adjacent to another site also being designed by Fosters and Partners – Almaty Financial District Phase 5 - primarily to offer residential apartments but also with some office and retail space.
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Old July 25th, 2008, 09:02 PM   #20
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Foster is designing a whole city it seems like.
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