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Khan Shatyr Entertainment Center in Astana, the capital city of Kazakhstan, is an architectural project that is billed as the world’s largest tent. The “tent” is made of a transparent material and suspended on a network of cables strung from a central spire 150 meters high. The structure has a 200 meter elliptical base enclosing an area of 140,000 square metres. Underneath the tent, an area larger than 10 football stadiums, is an urban-scale internal park, shopping and entertainment venue with squares and cobbled streets, a boating river, shopping centre, mini golf and indoor beach resort. The transparent material allows sunlight through which, in conjunction with air heating and cooling systems, maintains a comfortable internal temperature between 15–30 °C while outside the temperature varies between -35 and 35 °C across the year.
To prevent condensation in the winter, three translucent layers of ethylene tetrafluoroethylene fabric or EFTE act to channel warm air. In summer, fritting on the outermost foil layer provides solar shading. Inside, low-level jets direct cool air across the space, while opening vents at the apex induce stack-effect ventilation. The transparency and scale of the tent stands out in the skyline like a beacon, changing colors at night and streaming in natural light during the day.
Inaugurated in 2010 by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, the Khan Shatyr was described as “the latest vanity project” of Kazakhstan’s increasingly autocratic president by The Guardian.
Nazarbayev moved Kazakhstan’s capital to the isolated northern city from Almaty in 1998 and renamed it Astana, which means, literally, “capital”. On the tenth anniversary of the move, Nazarbayev signed a decree declaring 6 July – which happens to be his birthday – Astana Day. The name “Khan Shatyr” itself roughly translates as ‘the tent of the khan, or king”.
Nazarbayev has ruled Kazakhstan with an iron fist since it gained independence amid the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. His current presidential term expires in 2012, but under legal changes approved by parliament in 2007, he is allowed to serve as president indefinitely.