The Khan Shatyr Entertainment Center in Astana, Kazakhstan, was officially opened last night in the presence of local and foreign heads of state in a grand ceremony, with a performance by the Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli.
The 50 story (500 feet) tall tent is the world’s tallest tensile structure. It contains entertainment, leisure and event facilities, a shopping center, including retail, cafes, restaurants, cinemas and an urban scale park including man-made lakes and rivers.
One of the main functions of the structure is to provide shelter from the extreme temperatures of Astana (-30 to 95 F).
The tent is a creation of world-renowned London based architects Foster+Partners.
Whether one finds the architecture of Astana impressive, high-tech, avant-garde or cheesy, wasteful and monstrous is a matter of taste and values. But this huge tent no doubt fits right in among the many unique structures of Astana.
One could argue that Khan Shatyr Center seems emblematic of the way of building typical of Kazakhstan’s new capital. The exaggerated architecture of Astana seems to have been enabled by a combination of a new nation’s need to create its own identity and a dictator-president’s megalomaniac weakness for monuments glorifying himself and his regime. Fittingly the center was opened on Astana Day which coincides with the President’s birthday!
The architecture of Astana brings to mind monstrous building’s like the House of the Republic in Bucharest built by Romania’s late dictator Ceausescu and the over-sized presidential palace in the capital of Turkmenistan.
Seeing the architectural bling of the new capital of Kazakhstan serves as a reminder that huge amounts of resources are still being wasted on mindless monuments all over the world although they might not be as conspicuous as the ones in Astana.
One can only wonder what could have been achieved if these resources would have been used to improve the living standard of the poor or other productive uses. Then again if not for man’s tendency to create monuments, few of the seven wonders of the world would ever have been created, neither hardly any of the man-made sites that people travel thousands of miles to see.