Palace of Peace


In September 2003, Kazakhstan − the largest of the former Soviet Republics − 
hosted the inaugural Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions in the 
capital, Astana. Spurred by the Congress’ success, the President of Kazakhstan 
decided to make it a triennial event. The Palace of Peace was conceived as a 
permanent venue for the Congress and a global centre for religious understanding, 
the renunciation of violence and the promotion of faith and human equality. 
In addition to representing the world’s religious faiths, the Palace houses a 1,500-
seat opera house, educational facilities, and a national centre for Kazakhstan’s 
various ethnic and geographical groups. This programmatic diversity is unified 
within the pure form of a pyramid, 62 metres high with a 62 x 62-metre base. Clad 
in stone, with glazed inserts that allude to the various internal functions, the pyramid 
has an apex of stained glass by the artist Brian Clarke. Spatially, it is organised 
around a soaring central atrium, which is animated by shifting coloured light 
patterns. A glass lens in the floor of the atrium casts light down into the auditorium 
and creates a sense of vertical continuity from the lowest level of the building to 
the very peak. The assembly chamber is raised at the top of the building, supported 
on four inclined pillars − ‘the hands of peace’. Lifts take delegates to a garden-like 
reception space from where they ascend to the chamber via a winding ramp.  
The Astanian climate posed a significant challenge, with a temperature range from 
40°C in summer to -40°C in winter. The construction schedule also had to be 
extraordinarily rapid, the Palace needing to be complete in time for the second 
Congress in 2006. Together, these demands led the design team to develop a 
structural solution that utilises prefabricated components, which could be 
manufactured off site during the winter months and erected during the summer. 
Remarkably, the entire process, from briefing to opening was completed in just 
twenty-one months. 
description by architects


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