The Kazakhstan capital city of Astana is a wonderful example of how to build future societies. The metaphysical notion of intention is the key to building a community which you may truly refer to as “master planned”.
Washington, D.C. has a similar skeleton of geometric order, though the function, if I remember correctly, is to serve as a means to confuse an invading army. In the case of Astana, the priority of purpose appears to be the power and artistic excellence of the economical, residential and political aspects shared equally and bound together by nature – which is perhaps the most symmetrical of all the components. In that way, it’s an inverse of most city planning I’ve seen. Typically, cities try to recreate a feeling of nature’s seemingly atypical placement. In this case, the idea appears to be a metaphor of nature being organized in line with the cities intention to be a place of strength. The departure is exactly the correct metaphor for Astana – a capital carved out of a somewhat brutal natural landscape to become somewhat of a modern day miracle. Astana has the coldest weather in the world. Even in that aspect the city has achieved dominion over nature through the construction of a beach environment to enjoy in the summertime.
The structure of the layout, the beauty of the organized natural elements and architecturally grand buildings (many refer to Sacred Geometry) are complimented by a further innovation that caters to the individual. Not only are districts in place, but within them there are stylistic neighborhoods that mimic the home country of residents such as the American style neighborhood shown here with red roofs. Pretty cool!
When it was first built, Astana was notably for its emptiness. Some wondered why the president, Nursultan Nazarbayev had taken the time to build out a city when there were only a small number of people living there. Detractors claimed it was the spoiled excess of a reckless man dictating self-aggrandizing monuments with a large vault of money from the Caspian Sea oil fields. Now that skilled and cultured people are flowing into the city it appears those monuments are actually befitting a leader that knew his plan was never a risk at all. The intention to attract people of all areas of the world, from all areas of business and to welcome all religious and spiritual beliefs was planned from the start. This “Field of Dreams” mentality decides from inception that Astana will be a world-class meeting place for a true bit of everything he wants for the future of his people without allowing the kind of unbalanced growth that would create sprawl. It’s a balance of everything, pre-balanced and waiting for whatever a resident needs and wants from their home by way of abundant options.
When you think about building a city this way compared to how office buildings are built it makes complete sense. The building is the architecture. Stairs, break rooms, reception, etc are predetermined. Only the space itself is built out upon arrival of a company. If we built an office building the way most cities are built, half of the building would be completed with the rest waiting as steel girders to be built out as the occupancy increased. Doesn’t make much sense!
As we find ourselves well into the 21st century it may be time to take a look at how traditions such as building a city based on the availability of water from a river and other survival-motivated planning can be improved toward a progress-motivated intentional sophistication.