August 14 2013

Shopping Malls as Primary Civic Spaces in Astana, Kazakhstan

Shopaholics from afar will not be disappointed by the plethora of malls in Astana, Kazakhstan. Leisure-oriented venues – MegaAsia ParkKeruenSary Arka, and, of course, Khan Shatyr – boast countless stores, numerous cineplexes, restaurants, and cafes. While these commercial establishments are well appointed, further elaboration on their ample amenities would be superfluous. The role that Astana’s malls play in the city’s civic sphere is quite worthy of comment, however. As extensions of the community, they are important civic spaces, along with the city’s parks, museums, and centers of art and culture.

Mega, a Shopping Mall in Astana, Kazakhstan

Mega, a Shopping Mall in Astana, Kazakhstan

The city’s malls are fashionable indoor promenades, places where the city’s apartment-dwellers go to participate in society at large. In Astana, the outdoors are forbidding in the winter, and so not surprisingly, residents retreat to these indoor public spaces. In the summer, the city’s parks and green spaces do not become crowded because Astana’s residents prefer to stroll about the aforementioned malls creating a lively, vibrant ambiance less often observed out of doors.

Furthermore, Astana’s malls host many civic celebrations and are places of government-citizen engagement. Khan Shatyr recently hosted “Millennia around Astana,” an Astana Day celebration focused on the nomadic history and traditions of the Kazakh people. The government has also established “e-government” terminals at Astana’s malls, where residents can pay their utility bills and traffic tickets.

“Millennia around Astana" at Khan Shatyr

“Millennia around Astana” at Khan Shatyr

For the visitor, it is odd to see interactions at malls that normally take place in parks and public squares, at museums, or at city halls and similar government complexes. The city’s harsh climate explains this dynamic to a certain extent. Astana’s incomplete city blocks (on the “Left Bank,” relative to the Esil River) and the construction that abounds outdoors surely are contributing factors. Astana’s urban designers, architects, and developers should aim to connect these commercial-civic spaces to the neighborhoods that are their hosts when they undertake infill projects in this maturing city.

Where you live are malls merely for shopping, entertainment, and bored teenagers, or “mall rats,” as they are called in America? Or, are they valuable civic spaces where citizens go to engage in public activities? Comment here or on Twitter! Share on Facebook!

Credits: Photographs by Sunny Menozzi. Sourced information attributed 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, August 14th, 2013 at 9:47 am and is filed under Community/Economic Development, 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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One Response to “Shopping Malls as Primary Civic Spaces in Astana, Kazakhstan”

  1. JOHN Says:

    Same things can be observed in large malls in the Philippines. Given the heat and humidity in the country, Filipinos have made the mall their chosen meet up place. You can find spaces and amenities in malls here that you can’t find in other countries – art gallery, government offices, bills collection centers, concert arena, even a church!

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