July 03 2013

Astana, Kazakhstan: Metabolism and the Symbiosis of the Built and Natural Environments

To sunder Kazakhstan’s Soviet legacy from the nation’s hopes for the coming century, President Nursultan Nazarbayev and the national government said farewell to Almaty and established a new capital in 1997. In 1998, the government invited planners and architects to compete to design Astana, the new city. Kisho Kurokawa, a renowned Japanese architect, won the design competition. 

Kurokawa drew upon the Metabolism Movement when crafting his winning master plan. To learn more about the Metabolism, let’s return to the 1960 World Design Conference held in Tokyo. Influenced by Kenzo Tange and his master plan for the reconstruction of Hiroshima, Kurokawa, along with fellow WoDeCo organizers, published Metabolism 1960: Proposals for a New Urbanism,” WoDeCo’s design manifesto, which emphasized the exchange and symbiosis of the organic and the inorganic as well as regeneration and renewal.The Nakagin Capsule Tower in Tokyo is an example of Metabolist architecture.

Kurokawa’s master plan for Astana called for the symbiosis of the built and natural environments, a Metabolist proposition. Kurokawa artfully integrated prominent natural features, including the Esil River and a large forest to the city’s south, into the city’s layout. Green spaces throughout the city, including tree-lined thoroughfares, parks, and landscaped civic and institutional commons, infuse the inorganic with the organic. 

Esil District as seen from the Opposite Bank of the Esil River
Esil District of Astana as seen from the Opposite Bank of the Esil River

Kurokawa later designed the Astana International Airport. An expansive glass wall is the most prominent feature of the main hall. It diminishes the barrier between the recently arrived or departing traveller and the Kazakh Steppe, merging the built with the natural (when all of the greenery in the vicinity of the airport has matured, the view will be more captivating; currently, it is not exactly sublime).

In addition to harmonizing the urban and the natural, Kurokawa recommended the construction of architecture that was innovative but rooted in Kazakh heritage. Norman Foster’s Khan Shatyr, a high-end shopping and entertainment complex, embodies this balance; it is a post-modern interpretation of a yurt, a traditional Kazakh dwelling.

Norman Foster's Khan Shatyr

Norman Foster’s Khan Shatyr

Has Metabolism influenced architecture or urban design in your city? What do you think of Metabolism? Comment here or on Twitter! Share on Facebook!

Credits: Photographs by Sunny Menozzi. Information and data cited through links.

Sunny Menozzi

Sunny Menozzi's military duties have taken her to diverse and exciting places, from Singapore to Arizona, South Korea to Afghanistan, and North Carolina to Hawaii. Sunny's travels inspired her interest in cities, especially how they function, the impact of the built environment on the residents, the methods planners employ to shape natural features, and the vibrancy that can be cultivated by good planning and design. She will begin her pursuit of a master's degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fall of 2013. Sunny plans to focus on reuse and historic preservation, community-building, and economic and environmental sustainability. She hopes to contribute to projects that repurpose military bases. An avid runner, Sunny is interested in the design of recreational trails and policies that encourage the development of walkable communities. She holds a B.S. in International Relations and Russian from the United States Military Academy at West Point.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013 at 9:05 am and is filed under Architecture, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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