Norman Foster has Boullee on the mind

norman foster
Norman Foster’s rendering of Asanta’s center for religious understanding.

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.

via Gabion
Foster and Partners

3 Replies to “Norman Foster has Boullee on the mind”

  1. While it formally evokes Boullee, I would say ideologically it’s related to R. Buckminster Fuller, who Foster worked with years ago.

    Specifically it reminds me of a crater-like development in East St. Louis (never built) that would be a self-sustained town, and of course his geodesic dome projects that used pure form as a geometric and economic container for various program elements.

    Visionary stuff that perhaps requires an oligarchy for implementation.

  2. you’re right. “ideologically” was a poor choice of words on my part. I suppose I was thinking more about the ambitious pursuits behind both architects motivations and the scale of the ideas that their buildings were designed to accomodate.

  3. An interesting post, but with two inaccuracies. First, the capital’s name is Astana, not Asanta. Second, it’s not being “built” in the sense that they are constructing a brand new city from scratch. Astana has existed for some time under the names Akmola and, in Soviet times, Tselinograd (it got its current name after the capital was moved there from Almaty; “Astana,” in fact, means “the capital” in Kazakh).

    Oh, and Borat is about as Kazakh as Ali G is black.

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