The architectural rendering is a subtle knife. It can be used to convince, intimidate, and generate laffs—or all three at once, if you’re really good. Such is the case with this collection of renderings, which show proposed designs for the upcoming 2017 World Expo in Kazakhstan.
The Expo will bring an estimated three million people to Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, in less than four years. When they get there, they’ll be treated to exhibits from over a hundred different countries, all located within a central hub—the design of which is still up in the air. Last spring, the Expo organisers invited international firms to propose ideas for these space—and the resulting designs are on view in Astana now (the winner will be announced next month).
Astana is already home to some fairly bonkers architecture, stemming both from its history as a Soviet outpost and its recent building boom, which has seen the construction of dozens of enormous, futuristic structures. Designed in a fit of wishful thinking, its bombastic buildings are vastly too large for the number of people who use them. As writer Jeffrey Inaba once explained:
A photographic inventory of recent and not-so-recent architecture shows that Kazakhstan’s interiors are as beautifully over-scaled as their outdoor counterparts. Hallways are dimensioned to accommodate rush-hour Tokyo pedestrian traffic. Classrooms are longer than the distance a teacher’s voice can carry. Lobbies are proportioned for the largest conceivable assembly of people. Vegetation, which is not present outside for most of the year, is strategically arranged to fill the inevitable void in composition. The potted plant is an architectural detail.
These Expo designs—which hail from architects all over the world—seem to continue the trend over overbuilding. And it's hard to say whether hosting the World Expo will be a good investment for the city. More and more critics are questioning the value traditionally placed upon hosting international events like the Olympics and the World Cup, arguing that the investment required to build gigantic new structures and venues ends up dragging host cities into deep debt.
It's still too early to say whether the same issues will befall Astana. So for now, let's enjoy the renderings free of context, scale, or questions about their value. Here we go!
J. Mayer H. Architects (Germany)
Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture (USA)
Zaha Hadid Architects (UK)
Studio Pei-Zhu (China)
COOP HIMMELB(L)AU Wolf D. Prix & Partner ZT GmbH (Austria)
Safdie Architects (USA)
Serie Architects (UK)
See the full list of entrants on Bustler.