Astana has a predilection for post-modern, avant-garde architecture. The construction of wildly creative, contemporary architecture in Dubai and Tokyo cemented these cities' reputations as modern urban centers. Likewise, Astana will be “the Dubai of Central Asia,” according to Kazakhstan's government, a bastion of modernity in a region that tends toward the traditional.
This penchant for the daring can produce a mundane cityscape, however. The edifices of Astana's one-of-a-kind skyscrapers are glass – reflective glass, opaque glass, but not transparent glass. These sleek, other-worldly high-rises often reflect one another, producing a monotonous scene. It should be noted that temperatures in the city fluctuate dramatically over the course of a given year, from roughly -40º Fahrenheit to 100º Fahrenheit. Therefore such glass is a practical choice because it reduces heat loss during the frigid months and heat absorption during the hot months.
When buildings are faced with reflective glass, consideration must be given to what those buildings will reflect. Hancock Place on Copley Square in Boston, Massachusetts, provides an example to be emulated. A reflection of the historic Trinity Church, designed by eminent architect H. H. Richardson, graces the contemporary skyscraper. The pair engage the eye, providing a pleasant merging of the modern and the traditional.
As a fifteen year-old city, Astana is short on historic architecture. In this regard, Astana's greatest assets are its parks, tree-lined thoroughfares, and landscaped civic and institutional commons. When new skyscrapers are built, care should be taken to situate these structures so that their exteriors reflect green expanses. An illusion of greenery will envelop the passerby, providing a visual respite. Care should be taken to prevent birds from flying into non-existent habitats, however.
Opaque glass can delight the eye when employed in moderation and with pleasant colors, but it can create a discontinuous cityscape that exhausts the eye when utilized to excess. Furthermore, it crudely divides the built and natural environment (as in casinos and similar places of ill repute). By incorporating transparent glass edifices, or windows, into their plans, architects designing prominent buildings in Astana might create a more harmonious cityscape, and merge the built and the natural. Such a merger, or symbiosis of the man-made and natural, is a core principle of Astana's master plan.
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Credits: Photographs by Sunny Menozzi and Pei, Cobb, Freed & Partners. Data linked to source.