The weirdly wonderful architecture of Nur-Sultan

Nur-Sultan, the capital of Kazakhstan, is home to many unusual architectural sights. The city skyline seems straight out of a sci-fi movie, with gleaming skyscrapers boasting unique shapes and colours.Here are the top five buildings to check out in the city.

  1. Bayterek Tower

True to its name, ‘Bayterek’, which means ‘tall poplar’, is shaped like a tree. What is even more unusual is the golden orb perched atop the latticed observation tower. The design is inspired by an old Kazakh folk tale about a sacred bird of happiness, which lays its golden egg in the mythical tree of life. A viewing platform is set at 97m – the height represents 1997, the year Nur-Sultan was named Kazakhstan’s capital – and the landmark draws both tourists and locals who want to enjoy expansive views of the city.

  1. Palace of Peace and Reconciliation

Also known as the Palace of Peace and Accord, this beautiful pyramid designed by famed British architect Norman Foster opened in 2006. It represents all of the world’s religious faiths and houses educational facilities, a research centre for Kazakhstan’s geographical and ethnic groups and a 1,500-seat opera house. It was conceived as a meeting place for world religions and aptly features a stained-glass apex that depicts doves, the symbol of peace.

  1. Shabyt Art Palace

Opened in 2009, this is the largest art centre in Kazakhstan. Locals refer to the concave glass structure as a dog bowl. The cavernous interior houses many facilities, including a school of fine arts spread over seven floors, lecture and exhibition halls, two performance spaces, a library, two shooting pavilions, art and photography studios, a function hall that can fit 4,500 people, a cosy restaurant, and even a hall for press conferences.

  1. Fountain Circus

You wouldn’t be the first to mistake this futuristic performance venue for a spaceship. Construction works began in 2001, though it was four years later, in 2005 that the first circus performance was held in the venue. The show was graced by Kazakhstan’s founding president Nursultan Nazarbayev. The venue can seat up to 2,000 circus-goers and also hosts travelling circuses from around the world. Fittingly, sculptures of figures performing various circus acts dot the fountain in front. 

  1. Golden Towers

There are two golden structures near the landmark Bayterek Tower that are just as eye-catching. Known as the House of Ministries, they flank the entrance to the Presidential Palace. But their unique shape and dazzling facade have earned them a nickname that is not quite as grand as their looks: ‘beer cans’. The twin towers were built in 1998, shortly after Astana, as Nur-Sultan was named previously, was made the capital of Kazakhstan.

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