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Exquisite Vurnerable Almaty

Emerging Border Conditions in Eurasia

MSc3/4 Graduation studio


2020 / 2021

Studio participants









Though the former capital of the country, Almaty is still the largest city of the Kazakhstan and has remained ‘the Southern capital’ through its economic and cultural importance. Located at a geographically exquisite but also vulnerable location, Almaty seems to maintain a careful balance between natural beauty and ecological disaster, between architectural production and seismic destruction, between national focus and cosmopolitan character.

The ‘Almaty Territory’ map depicts the territory as a north-south system of material conditions. The water conditions form the basis of this territorial north-south system and influences the other conditions running along it. The glacial lakes on top of the mountains south of the city slowly melt throughout the year, which is led downwards through branches of rivers which extend through the plateau and discharge into the Kapchagay reservoir on the North. Almaty is positioned on an active seismic fault which is likely to rupture one day and runs perpendicular to this north-south system. Human interventions in the form of canalization, dams, and mud stoppers have formed awater system: the composition of these territorial hardwares creates a canyon like shape leaving voids on the east and west of the territory while further strengthening the north-south system.

The ‘Almaty Borders’ map follows an opposite approach: a perpendicular line to the distinguished north-south system of the territory defines the digital dérive route we traced. The map shows four elements that constitute the borderscapes: edges, thresholds, gates and vistas. By relating the findings from the territory map to the established zones, we found a correlation to the soil types. The city was first established on highly fertile soil which is called kernozen. The first development is the highly organized grid system which reflects, to this day, on its rhythmic borderscape of building blocks, vegetation and vistas. The need for one to two story housing against earthquakes results to dwellings that spread horizontally along the territory creating long streets of walled edges and no vistas. This series of expansion and amendments to connect the urban fabric resulted in internal borders between these areas of different borderscape characteristics.

Exquisite Vurnerable Almaty
Exquisite Vurnerable Almaty
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