Palace of Peace & Reconciliation
Built to host the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, the 62m high Palace of Peace and Reconciliation is one of two buildings in Astana designed by British starchitect Norman Foster. If you want to visit, you are obliged to take a guided tour, but it is on offer in English and well worth it. The Pyramid, which opened in 2006, is organised around a central atrium with diagonal elevators that take people up along the inward leaning walls to a transparent apex. Just below the Pyramid’s peak – designed with blue-and-yellow stained-glass (representing the colours of the Kazakh flag) and embellished with images of doves – one for each ethnic group living in Kazakhstan and the international symbol of peace – is a circular chamber modelled on the United Nations Security Council. Leading up a winding staircase to this chamber, which serves as the meeting space for the conference delegates, are walls covered in lush vegetation. In addition to representing the world’s religious faiths, the Pyramid also houses a research centre dedicated to religious study, a library, a museum for Kazakhstan’s ethnic groups, an art gallery, offices and a 1,500-seat opera house – a last-minute request from the President. The opera house, on the Pyramid’s lower-level, has a circular glass ceiling that partially illuminates its chamber with light flooding through from the apex above, creating a sense of connection between the lowest level and the top of the building.