In 1997, the President of sovereign Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, suggested to move the capital from Almaty to Akmola. This decision was based on the important geo-political location of the city in the center of Kazakhstan and the Eurasian continent as well as on the availability of transport and communication infrastructure. The capital’s new location was also chosen for the availability of space and land which would allow the city to develop.
It was once said that “the West is the West, the East is the East and they will never be together”. In Kazakhstan there is a city which disproves this saying that seemed irrefutable.
In 1998 the new capital was renamed. It was given the name “Astana”, which stands for “Capital” in Kazakh.
The fast evolving young capital, is the symbol of creativity and progress of the Kazakh people.
Together with local companies, the new capital was built by Turkish, Italian, French and Swiss companies. Every year 60 to 100 middle and large size facilities were built. Rapid construction and widespread popular support made it possible to build a modern city of unique beauty and style in the steppes of Kazakhstan in the space of 10 years.
The architectural concept of the city was based on President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s idea that the city should have a Eurasian outlook.
The author of the general plan of Astana was the famous Japanese architect, Kisho Kurokawa, who designed the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam, the International Airport of Kuala Lumpur and the national ethnological museum in Osaka.
The architectural ensembles created in accordance with Kurokawa’s general design combine modern design and oriental flavor. This makes the city unique. The beauty and the height of buildings in the city are comparable with Tokyo, New York and Dubai.
The city’s appearance changes fast as it continues its dynamic development. The city also looks different at night, with beautifully illuminated buildings, street lights, garlands, colorful fountains on the River Ishim, nightlights along the bank, bright shop windows, bars and nightclubs.
Today, Astana covers an area of 710.2 square km with a population of over 700 thousand people.
Astana is a city which offers good education and good job prospects. The rapid population growth is due above all to the migration inflow of predominantly highly-skilled specialists between 20 and 45 years old. According to municipal authorities, the average salary matches the average salary in the country’s oil and gas regions whilst the unemployment rate is one of the lowest in Kazakhstan. High birth and marriage rates have also contributed to Astana’s natural development.
Astana is an important cultural and scientific center in Kazakhstan. It hosts the National Academy of Sciences, universities, the National Library, the National Museum, modern art galleries, the Center for Social and Economic Technologies, business centers, children’s parks, and water amusements.
Astana mirrors the realities of a modern multinational and multi-confessional Kazakhstan: representatives of all races and major religions live and work together. The city has become a venue for a number of public forums dedicated to interethnic and interfaith cooperation.
Astana’s architecture combines oriental traditions and audacious ideas of leading western architects in a harmonious yet daring way. The general plan of the city was developed by the famous Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa, the design of the unique Palace of Peace and Concord and the “Khan Shatyr” entertainment center belong to British architect Norman Foster and the cinema and concert hall were designed by Italian architect Manfredi Nicoletti.
The city’s main square is delimited by the complex of buildings made up of the Senate, the Parliament, the President’s Residence and other government buildings. Around this square more than 650 buildings are under construction, including residential and public complexes.
The Palace of Peace and Concord is a unique pyramid built for centuries to come by the famous British architect Norman Foster in 2006. The pyramid is 62 meters high and was built on a 15 meter rise covering a total area of 25.5 thousand square meters. In its basement the pyramid houses an opera hall seating 1500 and in the upper part, the confessions hall. The building includes rooms for religious events, meetings of the Assembly of Kazakhstan’s Peoples, museums, and an exhibition hall.