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Khan-Shatyr tent complex opens in Astana
World's biggest tent structure honours Kazakhstani president
By Kapiza Nurtazina
ASTANA -- In Astana, the Khan-Shatyr (Khan's Tent) recreational and shopping complex opened July 6. The giant transparent tent honoured the 70th birthday of President Nursultan Nazarbayev and the 12th anniversary of the founding of Astana.
The opening of the complex, designed by British architect Norman Foster, symbolically represented the end of Astana's frenzied construction.
Khan-Shatyr sounds a symbolic note in the composition of buildings erected along the Yesil River's left bank. Beginning at the Kazak Eli (Kazakh People's) monument and the Palace of Peace and Harmony, an imagined line threads a path through the Ak Orda presidential mansion to the Baiterek tower. The thread rises into the sky together with the silver needle of Khan-Shatyr, the tallest tent structure in the world.
Construction of Khan-Shatyr began in 2006 and was supposed to end in 2009. However, technical difficulties, such as necessary installation of drainage pipes and poor weather, slowed construction. Even now, construction fences remain, showing that construction isn’t totally complete.
Raising the three-layer tent that covers the complex's grounds was the most challenging part of building Khan-Shatyr, said Yerbol Yeleuov, director of the Khan-Shatyr company. The complexity of the tent made building the tripod on which the Khan-Shatyr dome rests a matter of painstaking attention to detail, he said.
"Nowhere in the world has an awning covering such a large area been built", he said. "The weather complicated matters, … but the covering atop a vacuum pillow that we used worked. Indeed, the hardest part of the construction was raising the awning and building it over all of Khan-Shatyr".
At 150m, Khan-Shatyr is Astana’s tallest structure, but some are criticising the structure’s appearance.
"I like its volume and scale. But not when I consider the site they chose in Astana for it ", Astana sculptor Askar Yesdauletov said, "Furthermore, the covering looks too monotonous, like they're hiding some sort of design deficiency. Maybe they could have added some details or patterns to make it look more impressive".
The climate-controlled interior reminds visitors of European shopping centres. Restaurants, boutiques, cafes, bars, spas, a gym, a swimming pool, a cinema and playground for children are scattered on the grounds.
Landscapers have cultivated exotic tropical plants throughout the interior. They should thrive all year round, because the tent awning and the sunlight it allows will maintain a constant temperature. Swimmers and gym users can tan and exercise in any weather.
Already, crowds jam the 10,000 square metres of the complex in order to see this architectural and engineering feat. Visitors had different opinions.
"The new centre makes its own contribution to Astana's appearance and is quite extraordinary", raved a man who identified himself as Alibek, who came from Pavlodar for the festivities. "There's nothing Soviet about it. The interior is as classy as something you find abroad; it's not as banal as other Astana shopping centres like Mega and Aziya-park".
An Astana resident who gave her name as Svetlana was less impressed. "It's very well-built", she said, "but in many respects it resembles ... Mega and Aziya-park".
"It's hard for me to judge the quality of construction", said Murat, the Turkish owner of a small candy store inside Khan-Shatyr. "However, from a businessman's point of view, I can say it's a very attractive location, because we get a lot of visitors. I hope the centre lives up to expectations".
The structure cost more than US $300m, said Yeleuov, who wasn't certain of the exact amount. Factors that pushed up costs were the inability to finish on time and the need to hire foreign construction firms, he said. The complex might well be the most expensive structure built during Astana's prolonged construction boom, he said.