Shopaholics from afar will not be disappointed by the plethora of malls in Astana, Kazakhstan. Leisure-oriented venues – Mega, Asia Park, Keruen, Sary Arka, and, of course, Khan Shatyr – boast countless stores, numerous cineplexes, restaurants, and cafes. While these commercial establishments are well appointed, further elaboration on their ample amenities would be superfluous. The role that Astana's malls play in the city's civic sphere is quite worthy of comment, however. As extensions of the community, they are important civic spaces, along with the city's parks, museums, and centers of art and culture.
Mega, a Shopping Mall in Astana, Kazakhstan
The city's malls are fashionable indoor promenades, places where the city's apartment-dwellers go to participate in society at large. In Astana, the outdoors are forbidding in the winter, and so not surprisingly, residents retreat to these indoor public spaces. In the summer, the city's parks and green spaces do not become crowded because Astana's residents prefer to stroll about the aforementioned malls creating a lively, vibrant ambiance less often observed out of doors.
Furthermore, Astana's malls host many civic celebrations and are places of government-citizen engagement. Khan Shatyr recently hosted “Millennia around Astana,” an Astana Day celebration focused on the nomadic history and traditions of the Kazakh people. The government has also established “e-government” terminals at Astana's malls, where residents can pay their utility bills and traffic tickets.
“Millennia around Astana" at Khan Shatyr
For the visitor, it is odd to see interactions at malls that normally take place in parks and public squares, at museums, or at city halls and similar government complexes. The city's harsh climate explains this dynamic to a certain extent. Astana's incomplete city blocks (on the “Left Bank,” relative to the Esil River) and the construction that abounds outdoors surely are contributing factors. Astana's urban designers, architects, and developers should aim to connect these commercial-civic spaces to the neighborhoods that are their hosts when they undertake infill projects in this maturing city.
Where you live are malls merely for shopping, entertainment, and bored teenagers, or “mall rats,” as they are called in America? Or, are they valuable civic spaces where citizens go to engage in public activities? Comment here or on Twitter! Share on Facebook!
Credits: Photographs by Sunny Menozzi. Sourced information attributed through links.