|Dr. N. Subramanian
Joined: 21 Feb 2008
Location: Gaithersburg, MD, U.S.A.
|Posted: Tue Jul 17, 2012 5:54 pm Post subject: World's biggest tent in Kazakhstan
|World's biggest tent offers escape from Kazakhstan's big chill
Khan Shatyr, designed by Lord Foster, is latest vanity project initiated by president Nursultan Nazarbayev
The world's largest tent opened in Kazakhstan in July 2010, soaring up 150m to crown the skyline of Central Asia's newest capital,Astana, Kazakhstan.
The Khan Shatyr, a 100,000 sq metre complex designed by Lord Foster, holds a city within a city, with shops and restaurants, cinemas, water park, botanical garden, mini-golf course, and a monorail.
The leaning, needle-tipped leisure center is designed to evoke a yurt, which "has great resonance in Kazakh history as a traditional nomadic building form," said Nigel Dancey, a senior partner at Foster Partners, the London-based architecture firm behind the design.
"Khan Shatyr roughly translates as 'the tent of the khan, or king,'" Dancey added.
The Khan Shatyr's debut comes more than a dozen years after President Nazarbayev moved the Kazakh capital from Almaty to the relatively cold and isolated north-central city of Astana—then called Aqmola—in 1997
The aim of the tent is to provide escape to a people subjected to some of the harshest climes of Central Asia's vast steppe. Temperatures in Astana, in northern Kazakhstan, regularly dip well below -30C in winter.
British architects Foster & Partners sheathed the modern tent in ETFE, a lightweight plastic designed to control temperatures inside the structure, so its beaches and tree-lined walkways can stay open year-round.
The Khan Shatyr, which took three and a half years to complete, is said to be the world's largest tent—or to be more precise, the world's largest tensile structure.
A 492-foot (150-meter) tripod mast weighing 2,000 tons stands at the center of the Khan Shatyr, supporting a vast web of steel cable nets and three layers of transparent plastic, which allow daylight in while retaining heat.
Construction required 650 professional mountain climbers and had to be carefully timed to avoid work during the region's harsh winters, when temperatures can dip to below -40 degrees Fahrenheit (-40 degrees Celsius).
Despite its unconventional outward design, the interior of the Khan Shatyr should be familiar to anyone who's spent time in a U.S. shopping mall, said William Fierman, a professor of central Eurasian studies at Indiana University who recently visited the newly opened center.
"The biggest difference is the amusement rides in the Khan Shatyr," Fierman said.
The Khan Shatyr has a 1.5-million-square-foot (140,000 square meter) foundation, and its multiple levels house cafes, restaurants, shops, movie theaters, spas, rides, and even an indoor "beach"—complete with sand—on the top floor
The Khan Shatyr fills the archway of the Astana headquarters of KazMunaiGas, Kazakhstan's state-owned gas and oil company, in a June picture.
Unlike Italy's Tower of Pisa, the Khan Shatyr is supposed to lean to the side, Foster Partners' Dancey explained: "Its orientation is designed to align Khan Shatyr with the master plan for the city and to provide an end point for its dramatic central axis," he said.
The Khan Shatyr sits at one end of a long promenade that runs through the center of the capital. At the other end is a pyramid-shaped cultural research center called the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation, which Foster Partners also designed.
The futuristic Khan Shatyr tent rises above more modest local houses in Astana in June.
While entry into the Khan Shatyr is free, many of its shops and entertainments likely won't cater to the average Kazakh citizen, Indiana University's Fierman said.
For example, access to the Khan Shatyr's artificial beach costs about $60 U.S.—while the average teacher salary in Kazakhstan is about $250 to $300 U.S. a year, Fierman said.
"Therefore, such lavish projects [as the beach] are obviously beyond the means of many people."
"The concept was to create a venue that could be enjoyed by the people of Astana at all times of year," Foster Partners' Dancey said.
The Khan Shatyr is the latest vanity project initiated by Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan's increasingly autocratic president. Its opening ceremony, launched with a performance by Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli and closed with a burst of fireworks, was timed to coincide with Astana day, a new holiday to celebrate the country's capital. It was attended by Nazarbayev, Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, Turkish president Abdullah Gul and Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, among others.
Nazarbayev moved Kazakhstan's capital to the isolated northern city from Almaty in 1998 and renamed it Astana, which means, literally, "capital". On the tenth anniversary of the move, Nazarbayev signed a decree declaring 6 July – which happens to be his birthday – Astana Day.
He poured nearly £8bn into the city to transform it into a capital befitting Central Asia's most booming economy. He brought in world-famous architects like Kisho Kurokawa, who before his death in 2007 designed Astana's new airport and laid out a new urban plan for the city. Italian architect Manfredi Nicoletti designed a petal-shaped concert hall. The observation deck of Bayterek, a 105m tall tower in the city centre, bears an imprint of Nazarbayev's right hand and invites viewers to place their own hand into it and make a wish.
"They're essentially creating a new city, so they're playing around with new ideas," said Will Webster, a London-based freelance photographer who recently photographed the site. "The place is odd."
The Khan Shatyr is Lord Foster's second design in the city, after opening a "Pyramid of Peace," which holds an opera house, library and cultural research centre, in September 2006.
Nazarbayev has ruled Kazakhstan with an iron fist since it gained independence amid the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. His current presidential term expires in 2012, but under legal changes approved by parliament in 2007, he is allowed to serve as president indefinitely.