Often you’re not quite sure whether to admire or laugh at architectural renderings. When looking at somewhat make-believe, cinematic, sun-soaked and computer-generated designs, there’s a fine line between the sublime and the ridiculous. Judging from the fresh batch of proposals for the 2017 World Expo in Astana, Kazakhstan, it’s safe to say that many of the fantastical feats of architecture are…at least amusing.
The competition, launched earlier this year, compelled international architects to submit designs for what will be the Expo’s central complex. It will have to host more than 100 exhibition pavilions as well as 3 million visitors. In addition, according to the call for submissions, the winning design must be iconic and reflect the Expo theme of “green economy.” According to the country’s president Nursultan Nazarbayev, this calls for architecture that integrates alternative energy and autonomous heat and water systems.
Firms from more than 20 countries submitted 100 proposals. Now, 45 of them have been shortlisted and are in the running for the top commission and a $150,000 prize.
Plenty of the familiar names made the final cut: Zaha Hadid, Moshe Safdie, Coop Himmelb(l)au, whose designs depict all manner of twisting, scrunching, bobbing shapes, greened over with grass and festooned with fireworks and balloons. Hadid’s cluster of origami-like blocks is crowned by a vaguely symbolic tower, while Safdie Architects propose a sprawling eco-city of staggered spikes and a giant glass dome.
Projects from architects with less name recognition, like Studio Pei-Zhu and Mecanoo, give the starchitects a run for their money in the category of zaniest vision. Mecanoo opted to bury the expo center in an artificial mound, adding a new contour to the city. Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture’s design resembles a grounded spaceship, with a central orb presumably housing a grand atrium space.
The winner will be announced next month. See more of the finalists in the slide show up top.