Building Kazakhstan's capital from the ground up has galvanized the construction sector and created possibilities for architectural innovation.

The decision to shift the capital from Almaty to Akmola was adopted by the Supreme Council of the Republic of Kazakhstan in 1994. The official move took place in 1997. The following year, Akmola was renamed Astana.

Astana's territory now covers more than 700sqkm. The city is divided into three districts: Almaty, Saryarka, and Yessil. Moving the capital has given a strong boost to Astana's economic growth and to the city's construction industry.

The President's vision of creating a unique Eurasian style capital has underpinned this development. The new capital quickly set the standards for new construction projects. Since being named the new capital, more than 10 million sqm of housing has been built in the city. International construction companies and local firms have all cashed in on the boom. Alongside local firms, Turkish, Italian, French, and Swiss companies have played a part in building up the city. For example, the well-known Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa devised the capital's general plan. Recognized as one of the world's great architects, Norman Foster is known for his complementary yet ultra-modern redesigns of classic buildings and for his simple, streamlined new structures. Called the “hero of high-tech," the British architect has designed the most iconic buildings in Astana: Following the construction of the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation, a giant glass pyramid, the Khan Shatyr Entertainment Center was the second national project in Astana designed by the UK based architect. The center's 150m-high tent-like design has a 200m elliptical base covering 140,000sqm. Underneath is a shopping and entertainment venue with squares and cobbled streets, a boating river, mini golf, and indoor beach resort. Khan Shatyr is heralded as one of the greenest buildings in the world. The roof is made of special cushions suspended on a network of cables strung from a central spire. The transparent material allows sunlight through which, in conjunction with the stack effect and air heating and cooling systems, is designed to maintain an internal temperature of between 15-30°C, while outside the temperature varies between -35 and 35°C throughout the year. Foster is also the architect behind Bayterek Tower, a landmark in Astana, and a tourist attraction that is popular with foreign visitors and citizens alike.

Expo 2017 is another opportunity for the construction sector, as firms race to meet the deadline for completion of projects that are mushrooming across the city. As such, Talan Towers and Abu Dhabi Plaza are probably the most distinctive projects that will be realized in Astana by 2017.

Abu Dhabi Plaza is characterized by a staggered matrix of buildings with a retail and leisure podium. The plaza will include 90,000sqm of offices, 598 apartments in an 88-story tower, two hotels and 111,000sqm of rental space. Construction of Abu Dhabi Plaza will cost $1.6 billion, and the project will be fully financed by investors from the UAE. This gargantuan undertaking, in keeping with its backers' ethoi, will employ 7,000 people working two shifts in order to complete the project on time. Currently, about 1,000 workers are employed at the construction site. This 382m building will be the tallest tower in Central Asia, and it will be connected to Astana airport via railroad.

Verny Capital has invested $300 million in the construction of Talan Towers. Talan Towers will be the first “green" office center in Kazakhstan: optimizing the consumption of energy and water, the new complex will minimize its environmental impact and at the same time, it will ensure the best comfort standards to its future tenants. Total area of the building will be 120,000sqm. The complex will consist of two towers. One of them, at 25 stories, will host the Ritz-Carlton Hotel and residential apartments. In the second 30-story tower, there will be a A+ class business center with offices of Kazakh and foreign major companies. The towers will be connected with a three-storied plaza hosting a gallery with international luxury brands, a ceremonial hall, and a spa and fitness center. The towers were designed to compositionally connect with the symbol of Astana—the Bayterek monument.

Aidar Utkelov
Director, Astana Property Management
Astana has been growing rapidly. Over the past 16 years, $45 billion worth of foreign investment has been made in this city. In terms of people, due to internal migration and births, the population has almost doubled by around 40%. Astana went from 387,000 in 1998 to almost 900,000 in 2014, which is a significant number over 15 years. With regards to the number of residential units that have been offered to the market, we are talking about 55,000 units over three years, which is a gigantic number.