Designed by prominent American architect duo Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill, Nur Alem, the stunning sphere at the centre of Expo 2017 Astana, is the largest spherical building in the world with a diameter of 80 metres.
The 5,000m2 ground floor houses the Kazakhstan national pavilion, introducing visitors to the host country and its vision of “Future Energy” firstly via interactive images of Kazakhstan’s geography and cultural traditions.
Visitors can even “smell” the steppe air throughout different seasons of the year and learn more about Bayterek and the legend of the tree of life. Within this section, the egg symbolising the Sun on top of the Bayterek tree is portrayed through physical and multimedia exhibits, showing the battle between the evil dragon Aydakhar and the holy bird of happiness, Samruk.
Kazakhstan’s scientific prowess in the field of Energy is then featured in detail, with interactive displays of projects ranging from the Green Bridge Partnership Programme to the latest thermo-nuclear fusion developments from the Tokamak KTM programme.
The journey continues from Kazakhstan’s national pavilion to the top floor of the sphere, via futuristic elevator pods, allowing visitors to enjoy breathtaking views of the modern city of Astana and the steppe beyond it. On the side, a transparent bridge with a panoramic perspective over the eight floors of the Sphere fascinates visitors and startles those afraid of heights. Here, at the apex of Nur Alem, the city of the future is revealed with “Astana Smart City”, where sustainable development based on innovation and self-reliance meets quality of life for all.
Visitors can then resume their journey through the different types of energy explained on each floor, starting with Space Energy, and notably the far-sighted plans and ideas for energy production from outer space.
Solar energy is the focus of the following section, where adults and children alike can experience the different ways of capturing and using energy from the sun, beginning with methods from ancient civilisation to modern vehicles powered by solar batteries.
Ranging from mythology to the latest sailboats, wind energy follows on the fifth floor, with a wind tunnel which literally “blows away” visitors by demonstrating different wind speeds. Large paper airplanes detailing the objectives of the Paris Climate Agreement are then displayed, echoing Kazakhstan’s strong support for international cooperation on the climate.
The fourth level is dedicated to the energy potential of organic matter – biomass. Real plants and cereals are grown, and live explanations are given of bioenergy techniques in a digital laboratory, while playful touch-free motion sensing interactive displays enable children to discover more about plant life.
Kinetic energy is explained on the third floor with the use of historical gadgets, static bicycles connected to a screen, and an interactive dancefloor. An astounding acrobatic show completes the section, leaving visitors breathless as skilled performers boldly demonstrate their own application of kinetic energy.
Energy produced by water is the focus of the final floor, which showcases hydroelectric and tidal power, giving visitors the chance to create their own dam systems and to interact with modern water turbines.
With a total floor area of 24,000m2 over eight levels, Nur Alem is the Expo’s largest pavilion and key attraction. It it therefore advised to visit in the morning to avoid long waits.