Kazakhstan to Foster and Partners: ‘Here’s Some Money, Build Something Cool’


Man we wish it was a year ago, because then we could have written about this brief story in The Guardian about mega-firm Foster and Partners‘ plans for building in Kazakhstan and made all sorts of zany Borat references and you would have thought we were all hip and funny and cool. Instead, we’ll just have to settle for telling you their plans for a complex in the center of the country’s capital, described as a “mini-city designed to look like a three dimensional bar chart.”

Norman Foster has designed the complex to include an 88-storey office tower, a “traditional” Kazakh market and a winter garden the size of a football pitch to offer locals the chance to enjoy temperatures of around 10C (50F) while it is -30C outside.

The project is part of the plan by Nursultan Nazarbayev, the authoritarian president of Kazakhstan, to spend oil and gas revenues on a new capital.

Following a masterplan drawn up in a day by Kisho Kurokawa, Mr Nazarbayev has built two intersecting boulevards, each a mile long and 180 metres wide. At their junction is the national archive, shaped like a golden egg. The transport ministry is shaped like a cigarette lighter and this year Foster and Partners completed a vast tent containing tropical gardens, beaches and a nine-hole golf course.

That line “a masterplan drawn up in a day” makes us smile. We kinda want to believe that this is happening in every country right now with some extra oil money to throw around. You go in to do a pitch on some crazy building and they stop you as soon as you start, saying, “Nah, if you think it’ll work, here’s a hundred and eighty million dollars. You just go build your gerbil-shaped nine hundred story skyscraper. We’re sure it’ll be great. Just call us if you need more money.”