On the day his capital received a Guinness rating as the world capital of white marble-clad buildings, Turkmenistan's attention-craving President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov added yet another title to his collection: “Distinguished Architect of Turkmenistan.”
The official TDH news agency reports that Berdymukhamedov, who likes to be called “The Protector” (Arkadag in Turkmen), was granted the honorary title by the rubber-stamp parliament on May 25. The title recognizes Berdymukhamedov’s "titanic efforts put into the political, economic and cultural development of our beloved Motherland."
Just in case anyone wasn’t convinced, on the same day Berdymukhamedov received another recognition for his efforts. Craig Glenday, the editor-in-chief of the Guinness World Records book, flew in to present the distinguished architect with a certificate recognizing Ashgabat as the city with the most white marble-clad buildings in the world, TDH reported.
"In an impressive architectural re-styling effort led by the government of Turkmenistan, an area measuring 22 km² (8.49 mi²) in the capital Ashgabat boasts 543 new buildings clad with 4,513,584 m² (48,583,619 ft²) of white marble," the Guinness website says. "If the marble was laid out flat, there would be one square meter of marble for every 4.87 m² of land."
The capital of Kazakhstan is well known for its outlandish and whimsical buildings, which include a pyramid and a shopping mall shaped like a khan’s tent. Now architects are planning a new surprise: an ice hotel of yurts, the traditional circular dwelling of Kazakh nomads (more often made of felt, which is much warmer than ice).
One unnamed Astana hotel is planning to erect the frozen yurt village as a novel take on the ice hotels that have become popular in Scandinavia, reports the Ekspress K tabloid, citing Vitaliy Enke, spokesman for an architectural firm (also unidentified) working on the project.
An ice hotel of yurts is certainly weird, but – with Kazakhstan keen to attract more tourists – it looks like a sure bet for those in search of that once-in-a-lifetime experience. Astana, often described as the world’s second-coldest capital, definitely has the climate for it: last month temperatures plunged to -40C (-40F).
Land for the ice yurts has already been allocated on the city’s prestigious Left Bank, the seat of government and home to most of the city’s landmark buildings. As well as the Norman Foster-designed Pyramid of Peace and the tent-shaped Khan Shatyr mall, which boasts a beach inside, they include a velodrome in the shape of a cyclist’s hat, an egg-shaped national archive, and a building nicknamed the Cigarette Lighter for its shape, which once made headlines by catching fire.
Demolition work has begun on central Tashkent's Bank Land, a failed, futuristic business center that has stood empty since its completion in 2005. With its brown marble façade and gold columns, the building was one of the most ridiculed architectural achievements – though it had ample competition – in Uzbekistan’s capital.
Work started on the building in 2002. But by the time it was completed, Uzbekistan’s business climate had turned moribund: In the aftermath of the Andijan massacre in May 2005, foreign investment in the country dried up and the owners of Bank Land were left with a costly, and empty, white elephant.
As the years passed and still no tenants moved in, Bank Land lost its shine and became just another post-Soviet eyesore. Recently, workers set up fences decorated with forest scenes around the building and the demolition began.
Bank Land must have been an expensive folly. Local journalists’ attempts to track down who actually owned the building drew blanks, however. Business directories list the center, but the web pages contain no information.
When the gaudy building first appeared, its name written in English, jokes started doing the rounds that Bank Land would house a theme park dedicated to the banking industry. At the time, ATMs were a rare sight in Tashkent and even banks seemed to belong to the future. Bank Land would be the place where people could see ATMs and modern banking in action.
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