Astana, Kazakhstan. Astana's extensive greenery contrasts sharply with its backdrop, the Kazakh steppe, an expansive plain characterized by whipping winds and extreme seasonal temperature fluctuations. In the winter, temperatures plummet to -45, while in summer, temperatures rise to 99 degrees Fahrenheit!
Astana's parks and recreational spaces, landscaped institutional and civic commons, and tree-lined thoroughfares are practical and beautiful. Decades will pass before Astana's trees are mature, but their functionality is readily apparent. Astana's abundant trees, when mature, will blunt the winds that cut through the city's corridors, reduce the loose soil blown about, provide shady respite from the intense summer heat, and remove from the atmosphere some pollutants emitted by the city's burgeoning number of vehicles. Furthermore, the aforementioned green places are an investment in residents' health. Accessible green places encourage apartment dwellers to walk, cycle and roller-blade (a favorite pastime in Astana, not excluded to children).
Astana's institutional and civic commons
From an aesthetic perspective, flourishing, leafy, green canopies and gardens of brightly colored flowers (Kazakhstan is renowned for its tulips, in particular) enliven the human psyche; they remind residents that despite the region's harsh climate, this is a place that was meant to be inhabited. Furthermore, Astana's natural landscape provides a visual reprieve from the city's man-made landscape, that is, its other-worldly architecture. The sheer inventiveness of Astana's built environment can be hyper-stimulating, but the greenery provides space to contemplate and to imagine.
A pedestrian path and pocket park protect passersby and provide a reprieve.
In an urban design context, the city's greenery creates spaces that are to the human scale. Rational beings want to fit into their environment. Astana's residents could feel lost in the vastness of their built environment, composed as it is of long blocks, broad boulevards, and high-rise structures. Tree-lined and landscaped paths and interspersed green spaces properly situate the walker.
A streetscape in Astana
Landscape architecture has played an integral role in Astana's development, from both practical and aesthetic perspectives, creating a natural landscape within a superlatively postmodernist built environment. How has landscape architecture, or the natural features of your city, defined it or guided its pattern of development? Comment here or on Twitter.
Credits: Photographs by Sunny Menozzi. Sources and data cited through links.