Nursultan Nazarbayev is the President of Kazakhstan. He has more money than he knows what to do with and no political opposition, so naturally, he decides to build a new capital – Asanta. The centerpiece for Asanta will be a monumental center of religious understanding, a pyramid designed by Norman Foster where representatives from all major world religions will meet every three years to foster (no pun intended) religious understanding.
With this rendering, Foster must be consciously evoking Etienne Boullee, and I think the comparison is indeed apt. Like Boullee’s design, Foster’s pyramid is formally and ideologically epic. It includes an opera house “to rival Glyndebourne or Covent Garden,” a national museum of culture, a new center for Kazakhstan’s ethnic and geographical groups – and in order to secure its status as a new wonder of the world – hanging gardens. Oh yeah, and it’s fast-tracked to be done before the end of 2006.