In 1994, three years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev, announced that the capital would be moved from Almaty, which had served as capital of the Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic, to Akmola, an aging industrial city in the north of the country. Given a new name, Astana, and a new master plan, the city was reconstructed to represent the ideals and aspirations of the government for the development of the newly sovereign nation. Promoted as an image of Kazakhstani modernity to both national and international audiences, the city’s architecture and urban development has played a central role in government rhetoric—providing a visible symbol of economic progress, asserting a break with the Soviet past, and reflecting new international connections.
This thesis examines the architectural and urban development of Astana between 1998 and 2018, beginning with the international competition held to solicit schemes for a new master plan, addressing the city’s reconstruction and government-led national identity consolidation as mutually reinforcing projects. Three case studies focus on large-scale projects—the 1998 master plan, Expo 2017 Astana, and a series of three mixed-use towers—investigating the means by which internationally practicing architects and consultants, building typologies, and institutional program have been instrumentalized to reinforce government rhetoric or emplace Astana within global political, cultural, and economic networks.