Kazakhstan has been inhabited since the Stone Age, but these days the skyline of its capital city, Astana, is considerably more Space Age.
Bjarke Ingels’ BIG Architects is the latest marquee name to have the chance to leave its mark on the city. One of five architectural firms invited to compete in a design competition, the agency beat Lord Norman Foster and Zaha Hadid, among 16 others, to earn the right to create the country’s first national library. The 300,000-square-foot futuristic circular building is expected to be wrapped up by the end of 2012 and will be named for president Nursultan Nazarbayev, who is credited with attracting big-name architects to dress up the country’s buildings. He also commissioned the library, which will house his administration’s archives, among other things. But residents and visitors will no doubt be drawn in by the unusual, circular, latticelike structure.
Inspired in part by the yurts the country’s nomadic farmers set up and disassemble in the plains when herding goats, the National Library will look as though it is interwoven. The building’s circular interior will spiral in similar fashion to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum in New York. More than modernism, this continuous loop is meant to replicate the vastness of the Dewey Decimal System, the library classification system developed by Melvil Dewey in 1876, by allowing library goers to follow on a pathway browsing stacks without climbing stairs or facing other interruptions, according to BIG’s director of international development, Kai-Uwe Bergmann. The building will be two interlocking structures — a circle and a spiral inspired by the Möbius strip, a surface with one side and one boundary that derives from the mathematical equation discovered by Germans August Ferdinand Möbius and Johann Benedict Listing in 1858.
Having only become an independent country in December 1991 — and the last Soviet republic to do so — Kazakhstan has largely advanced its economy especially through the hydrocarbon industry. Luxury brands have been rushing into the market over the last few years to tap into its growing wealth. In recent years, some political leaders have recognized how having monumental libraries can attract visitors and attention to their respective countries. New brand name architecture is seen as a sign of international prestige.
Bergmann said, “What once was mausoleums in Lenin’s time then became monuments with [former French] President [François] Mitterrand. Now after almost 15 years, the attention has turned to libraries.”
Noting that Foster and Robert Stern have designed buildings and subsequently shaken up Kazakhstan’s pastoral image, Bergmann said, “Astana is filled with iconic buildings that were built from nothing in the past 15 years or so. Young countries need to inspire confidence.”
The architectural movement underfoot in Kazakhstan isn’t all that different from how Washington came to be. “When you look at what [Pierre Charles] L’Enfant did in Washington, D.C., back in the day, that was pretty audacious,” Bergmann. “He built the White House, the Senate and the Capitol, which is like a Roman temple. He was also responsible for the mall and to think no one actually lives in the center of the city. It’s only offices, ministries and museums.”
For its next men’s wear collection, @roberto_cavalli will show as a special guest at #PittiUomo, running from June 12-15. The brand, which has Florence in its roots, will relaunch its men’s wear collection, which will be presented separately from women’s wear for the first time since Paul Surridge was appointed creative director in May. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @aitorrosasphoto)
“I was making the guacamole when my scout saw me,” says model @stuckinteenage on being discovered just six months ago while working at @chipotlemexicangrill. Since then Williams has signed with @dnamodels, walked in her first show at @calvinklein and landed on the cover of @vogueitalia – a high point of any model’s career. To read @lisajlockwood’s full interview with the model on her experiences thus far, head to WWD.com – link in bio. (📷: George Chinsee)
“I love the idea of dialogue, period. It’s where I’ve always gotten my inspiration from: hearing other women speak, their journeys and their paths,” said @hereisgina, who delivered the keynote speech at the @sxsw conference for @createcultivate, the online platform and conference series for women. For her two panels, Rodriguez chose female empowering, female-led and female entrepreneurs to focus on. Head to WWD.com to read more about her thoughts on Time’s Up, growing up in a family of women and why we “need a girls’ club.” #wwdeye #sxsw (📷: @jgreenery)
Leading luxury brand are shaking things up to keep up with streetwear. Case in point: the arrival of @mrkimjones as artistic director of @diorhomme. Jones, who succeeds @Kris_Van_Assche, is seen as one of the handful of designers who can actually straddle the luxury and streetwear worlds — which could lead to even more changes at established brands. What could this mean for the rest of the menswear landscape? Head to WWD.com to find out what experts predict #wwdfashion (📷: @franckmura)
“It’s like buying groceries. You’re going to buy the best mango, the best mozzarella, the best things. You have to, or others are going to take it all,” said @gabrielahearst on why she uses only the finest fabrics. Last week, Hearst received her first @cfda nomination for Womenswear Designer of the Year, and earlier this month she opened a permanent showroom in Paris. To read @jessiredale’s interview with the designer and find out why this is shaping up to be a big year for her, head to WWD.com. #wwdfashion (📷: @francoisgoize)
“It’s an interesting thing, playing a younger version of your mother. It’s an interesting concept. I adore my mom and love her in every capacity, but it was just something that had never crossed my mind,” says @anniemstarke on playing a young Joan Castleman in “The Wife.” The same role will be played by her mother Glenn Close. Read more about her growing up in the film industry as the daughter of producer John H. Starke and Close and what she has planned for the future #wwdeye (📷: @nataliamantini)
@asics is launching a new streetwear sneaker inspired by its latest ambassador, @steveaoki. The Hyper-Kenzen x Aoki, which will launch at @footlocker stores exclusively tomorrow, is a slip-on style that incorporates the brand’s proprietary Gel technology through beads integrated into the midsole for comfort and endurance. Read the full story on WWD.com.