Manufactured landscapes of remote central asia

I’m staying in Almaty – Kazakhstan’s former capital city – the largest, “most vibrant and cosmopolitan” urban agglomeration in this nation of roughly 15 million people.  One of the most inland locations in the world, this soviet influenced city, is unlike any place I’ve been before.  Super-wide streets, right-of-ways, open space, mountainous terrain, and a sort of organized informality that keeps it all moving.  First, this marks a rapid end to the endless summer/spring of travels.  Temperatures are at just around 3 degrees Celsius/37 Fahrenheit and about to get colder as I head fifteen hours by train into the steppes of central Asia.  In what seems to be a no man’s land, there is no shortage of manufactured landscapes (been watching Ed Burtynsky’s documentary of the same name recently).  Resource rich Kazakhstan is at a lull in a recent construction boom and within the last decade has managed to transform two modest, ubiquitous, low-rise cities of concrete into new and connected central Asian (cultural, economic) hubs of steel and glass structures.  One is the cultural and commercial center – Almaty – and the other is the new capital that the government has moved to the geographic center (and very isolated location) of the country – Astana. (Think Brazilia)

Travel books are making parallels with the surge in construction locally to the building boom of Dubai (apples to oranges?)
I’m located in an interesting newer southern neighborhood of Almaty – there is a bazaar, mosque, and cinema on my street alone.

While I’m discovering these new cities, and their manufactured landscapes of architectural icons, I will be asking if this building boom, 10-12 years after the making, has created a city…or just a collection of buildings.

Some architecture proposals and their international designers:

http://aesthetechtonik.com/2007/04/16/building-almaty-republic-square-competition/

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