Photographer Will Webster got in touch the other week with a large batch of photos taken behind the scenes of the “world’s largest tent,” designed by Norman Foster, which opened this week in Astana, Kazakhstan.
From the Guardian:
The Khan Shatyr, a 100,000 sq metre complex designed by Lord Foster, holds a city within a city, with shops and restaurants, cinemas, water park, botanical garden, mini-golf course, and a monorail. The aim of the tent is to provide escape to a people subjected to some of the harshest climes of Central Asia’s vast steppe. Temperatures in Astana, in northern Kazakhstan, regularly dip well below -30C in winter.
The “aim of the tent,” of course, is also to monumentalize the ego of Nursultan Nazarbayev, which the Guardian describes as “Kazakhstan’s increasingly autocratic president.”
But the building was assembled by everyday workers, amidst the mundane landscapes of this growing, purpose-built capital city, watched by Astana’s own residents.
Webster’s photos—a selection of which you see reproduced here—offer a welcome, unpolished, backstage view of the building as its construction approached an end.
Future fun rides sit patiently wrapped in plastic as men in mountaineering gear fix cabled meshes and high-tension wires high inside the volcanic space.
All told, the building cuts an unlikely profile in its only semi-urban context. At dusk, through Webster’s lens, it looks less like a structure parachuted in from the future, than the shell of an old expo whose excitement has long since faded.
(PS: The abandoned water towers of Webster’s Soviet Farming Project series would also be great to explore at more length).