Part Arcology, Part Yurt


A decade ago, Nursultan Nazarbayev moved the capital of Kazakhstan from Almaty to Astana, a freezing city on the steppe. The government has already spent billions on construction there, but now it has bigger plans:

Kazakhstan has unveiled a new architectural project for its capital Astana—a giant transparent tent that will contain an indoor city.

The 150m-high (500ft) dome, designed by UK architect Norman Foster, will be built in just over a year.

The tent is being made from special material that absorbs sunlight to create the effect of summer inside….

Underneath, in an area larger than 10 football stadiums, will be a city with squares and cobbled streets, canals, shopping centres and golf courses.

The idea is to recreate summer, so that when the outside temperature is -30C, the residents of the Kazakh capital can play outdoor tennis, take boat rides or sip coffee on the pavement cafes.

Feels like the setup to a J.G. Ballard story. Write your own ending.

[Via Things, which describes Astana as an "architectural zoo."]

NEXT: 500,000 or Nothing at All

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  1. That actually sounds quite cool. I hope it pans out well.

  2. Why don’t they just spray CFS’s into the atmosfere and create global warming?

    I think that would work better.

  3. It does sound quite cool. Talk about a bubble in real estate!

    …The chances of it being successful are about as low as temperature. I wouldn’t go non-refundable on any land in the bubble yet.

  4. I’ve always wondered why they haven’t tried something similar in Alaska. Bringing under-glass temperate summertime to the frozen tundra seems eminently more practical than turning a middle-eastern desert into a snow-skiier’s paradise. Yet the latter concept is already being demonstrated in Dubai, and, until now, the former was relegated to science fiction stories.

  5. Are CFCs even a global warming contributor? I thought they wrecked the ozone, or something?

  6. I predict a glut of Borat jokes forthcoming in this thread…

  7. Earth III?
    I hope this time they deliver on the sex.

  8. I remember a weekly documentry about something like this from the mysterious future: Buck Rogers in the 25th Century IIRC.

    Erin Grey was so hot back then. I can’t wait until the future when all women are using those weight loss tablets and walking around in spandex.

    Tweekie the robot had a disturbing resemblence to Mary Lou Retton.

  9. James, I would think one problem with doing this in Alaska is the temperature of the surrounding ground. Seems like it would be harder to warm the ground enough to grow plants than it is to keep the air at a reasonable temperature. Then again, I’m not a scientist, and I could be way off . . . .

  10. That actually sounds quite cool

    It IS cool, and yet, whenever I cover myself from head-to-toe with saran wrap and go outside, I am institutionalized.
    We visionaries put up with a lot of oppression

  11. Whenever a tinpot Societ Asian dictator comes up with a plan like this, I ask myself WWTD: What Would Turkmenbashi Do.

  12. Try aluminum foil, mk.
    You may be crazy, but at least you’ll be shiny.

  13. Isn’t this Isn’t anyone going to comment on the massive government expense and waste going into a public works project at the expense of the Kazahk citizens?

  14. JAM,
    One word, permafrost. 1200 feet of it.

    If you insulate the ground first it is would relatively practical unless you plan on using solar power for heat. 24 hours a day in the summer but five or less(depending on latitude) in the dead of winter.

  15. STEPHEN,
    I am pretty sure that’s why it’s here in the first place. Just because a government funds it doesn’t make it un-cool, just foolhardy and wasteful of citizens money. Just like NASA.

  16. Isn’t anyone going to comment on the massive government expense and waste going into a public works project at the expense of the Kazahk citizens?

    With the possible exception of Andy, we’re accepting that as a given and then riffing.

  17. Sure beats spending 5 billon a month in Iraq. If the State is going to steal people’s money a fund ridiculous projects, might as well try something interesting and fun.

  18. Hitler tried it too. Wanted to replace Berlin with a super-German city named GERMANIA. Lost the war before the project got off the ground. Nazarbayev might have more luck — he is not in a war.

  19. “Feels like the setup to a J.G. Ballard story. Write your own ending.”


    1) Swamped by rising oceans? Nope, to far from the water. (Not that a fact like that would stop Hollywood.)

    2) Asteroid Impact? Nope, done too often and doesn’t really tie into the premise, unless the asteroid bounces off the tent.

    3) Retained heat causes cap on volcano to melt? Getting closer, but that movie was pretty bad when Pierce Brosnan made it.

    4) Warm interior causes permafrost to melt, wakening frozen herd of woolly mamoths, who stampede through the city stomping everyone in city before the hero shoots them all (the mamoths, that is). Last mamoth falls over on top of villanous dictator, crushing him. BINGO! Gotta call my agent now!

  20. “Are CFCs even a global warming contributor? I thought they wrecked the ozone, or something?”

    CFC’s deplete the ozone layer, and have been outlawed in the US. The hole in the ozone has no bearing on climate. Global warming is allegedly caused by CO2, methane, and some other “greenhouse” gases.

  21. “Feels like the setup to a J.G. Ballard story. Write your own ending.”

    I’m gonna go with:

    Dude goes crazy from the sun and the heat and the humidity and the ennui and then wanders off into the indoor jungle.

  22. I’m still saddened the capital moved to Astana. Almaty is a far better city, with access to the mountains (and year-round skiing!), a bigger, more cosmopolitan population, and reliable electricity. There is a good reason a lot of countries still haven’t moved their embassies up north – they all hate it. There’s nothing to do.

  23. What are they going to do during the summer, fold the thing up and store it in the shed?

  24. Sounds like a Christo/Jeanne-Claude project.

  25. Capital cities should be big & central with lots going on. I never understood the nearly universal trend to move the capital to some godforsaken wilderness like Albany, or Brasilia, or Canberra, or Washington…

  26. Thanks to this post, Rush’s Xanadu is now stuck in my head.
    Which is a good thing, because I’ve been trying to get “Eres Tu” out of my head for days.

  27. dead_elvis,

    You’re a straight up little fucker. I had to listen to Eres Tu in Spanish class a billion times so we could pick out all of the words. I dreamed that horrible tune for years.

    Since you just reactivated that nasty little earworm for me, I’ll try to get you back with the Jackson Five’s “ABC 123”

  28. I raise.

    Kris Kross’ “JUMP”

  29. Um, what about all the air pollution cities produce? I’m think of the effect the Rocky Mountains have on LA’s air quality and multiplying it by 100.

  30. Josh, it may still be that Astana is not as fun as Almaty, but my informal, totally unscientific poll of Almaty taxi drivers indicates that while Almaty is nice, Astana is a ?????????? ????? (konkretnii gorod – lit. “concrete city,” but, in this context, a really awesome place).

  31. This reminds me of that time when Xkrquornbman Noekwoekioaklaum moved the capitol city of Zretoriarmeiummux from Narseharffalump to Tamboozalappamont. Ah, those were the days.

  32. Nathan: check your Russian. The Russian word for concrete (n., as in construction material) is “?????” (bet-on). On the other hand, “??????????” means concrete (adj.) in the senses 1 and 3 of the four M-W lists:

    1 : naming a real thing or class of things (the word poem is concrete, poetry is abstract)
    2 : formed by coalition of particles into one solid mass
    3 a : characterized by or belonging to immediate experience of actual things or events b : SPECIFIC, PARTICULAR (a concrete proposal) c : REAL, TANGIBLE (concrete evidence)
    4 : relating to or made of concrete (a concrete wall)

    Furthermore, “??????????” (“???????????????”) is a separate term in the criminal slang (????, fenya, which is THE Russian these days) that I have difficulty defining in English, although some of the meanings are “serious” (???????????? ????? – serious money), “tough” (???????????? ????? – tough guy), “appropriate” (???????????? ?????? – appropriate food, not to be confused with “kosher”) and “no-nonsense” (???????????? ????? – serious talk). I bet yer cabbies had precisely the underworld meaning in mind.

    What we were talking about? Oh, yeah, Borat under glass. heh

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