National Library in Astana, Kazakhstan / BIG


BIG was recently awarded with the first prize on an open international design competition for  ’s new National Library in Astana.

The new building has an area of  33.000 sqm, arranged as a continuous circulation on a Möbius Strip, as the result of 2 interlocking structures: the perfect circle and the public spiral. The sections (see below) clearly show how the horizontal program shifts to a vertical configuration,  combining vertical hierarchy, horizontal connectivity and diagonal view lines. The skin, which changes from wall to roof as the strip develops. It sounds a bit complicated, but the sections and diagrams explain this pretty well, and you can get the idea on how the spaces and diagonal views relate on the renderings. In short words, a clear lineal organization (ideal for an archive, library) is mixed with an infinite loop.

“What is a library but an efficient archive of books… and a path for the public to reach them” (Thomas Christoffersen, Project Leader)

This shape also looks forward to become a symbol for the nation: “the circle, the rotunda, the arch and the yurt are merged into the form of a Moebius strip. The clarity of the circle, the courtyard of the rotunda, the gateway of the arch and the soft silhouette of the yurt are combined to create a new national monument appearing local and universal, contemporary and timeless, unique and archetypal at the same time” (Bjarke Ingels).

But once again, diagram´s are way better to explain this than my words. See the diagrams, sections and renderings after the break:

Structure / Envelope
Structure / Envelope
Ecotect analysis
Ecotect analysis
6th floor plan
6th floor plan
North-south section
North-south section
East-west section
East-west section
Night view


Architect: BIG
Client: Kazakhstan Presidential Office
Collaborators: ARUP AGU
Size: 33.000 M2
Location: Astana, Kazakhstan
Partner-in-Charge: Bjarke Ingels
Project Leader: Thomas Christoffersen
Team: Amy Campbell, Jakob Henke, Johan Cool, Jonas Barre, Daniel Sundlin

Cite: Basulto, David. "National Library in Astana, Kazakhstan / BIG" 25 Aug 2009. ArchDaily. Accessed 28 May 2015. <>
  • topos

    Another home run for the bigs at BIG!

    • Juma

      Kazakstan forever

    • Juma


  • gc

    feels like if he actually pulls this one off, it’ll be another step that pushes him into starchitect territory (following the mountain dwellings). i hope the interior experiences match the ones of the exterior.

  • imagine

    wow…the diagram is so great. But I think this concept looks like something made by Zaha Hadid.

    • Heli

      do you mean the Civil Court of Justice in Madrid? not sure about being similar, one thing I like about this BIG project is the entrance, there is a manipulation of landscape and I believe guiding myself from the model and section you sort of emerge on the center, both have different contexts…which one works better? could be a question.

    • rodney

      no way.
      This is much smarter than what hadid does.

      • tariq

        hadids work is pearl and this is its shiness….my dear.

  • Heli

    I like and respect Bjarke Ingels work. The way he explains his projects is a plus, is not like he is the only who does it because other architects do it too, but he does it a fun way (you don’t have to agree). When I look at this project and after I see the diagrams I say okay, even if it reminds me to the shanghai pavilion he did, still good. But then I look at the North-south section and I felt weird…maybe I missed something there.

    • fl!p

      but i really adore B.I.G.!

    • adam

      The north south section is bad. I’ve never seen so much wasted space. Am I missing something?

      • manny

        absolutely not a waste of space, compare yourself standing on one of those open platforms to standing on one of the floors of the east-west section,on the north-south section is where you would really experience and appreciate the design of structure.

  • eric

    i think they rendered to look like a physical model.

  • ale gaddor

    another masterpiece of design! but not architecture

    • sophia P.

      Then what do you consider architecture? some examples please. what do you think is the difference between design and architecture? Are they not one in the same (at least in this case).

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  • Kuan

    Seattle Library on steriods!

  • comitant

    Regular rooms housed
    in a sculptural shell
    gives much REMnanat space.

  • hj

    Remember those good old days when big copied OMA? Now they moved on to copy UNStudio, I’m getting old…

  • imagine

    @Heli: yes, that’s exactly what i’m thinking about. Well, if these two projects are not similar, so why you do you think about Civil Court in Madrid when i said this project looks like something made by Zaha?
    Anyway, i like this more than Zaha’s, may be it’s because of the diagram, it’s too convincing!

  • armeyn

    one word : BEAUTY

  • marc

    another BIG genius.

    • antonia

      Come on! relax your fanboy mentality towards architecture and the people heading the design-teams.

      • marc

        haha. i’m an architecture student, you can’t blame me for that reaction. ;)

    • john

      you need to grow some, and get out of puberty

  • panza

    its nice, i like it…but once again…I dont know if bjarke ingels wants to be more mature or what, but Im missing something innovative here. couple a years ago, with every new project, there was also some kind of statment “how can we do it differently?” and there were tons of small ideas added to the project to make it more fun for the inhabitants / visitors and, what i think, make the building actually work.

    here / its a library, but nothing else, people would come here to read books, but nothing else would make them spend some more time here and explore the building.

    in one sentence: its nice, but it is boaring.

    And that’s the worse you can say about BIG, cause, that’s theyr trademark. Not necesserily nice, but always FUN

  • Disenoteca

    Architecture wise: AMAZING!
    Interior Design wise: Very poor… Interiors are not part of the last minute details… Interior design is a whole challenge/project by itself.

    • antonia

      How can you separate “architecture” from its interior? – Isn’t architecture always the whole thing – inside and outside?

      • alexander

        no, architecture is the design of a space, the exterior is stunning, but the interior is well below the standards of a building of this calabur

  • rl

    The section is horrible. It reveals the uselessness of these weird, narcissistic shapes. It looks pretty from the outside though, and the diagrams are mildly entertaining.

  • freud

    Nice form, but more for a pavillion (Shanghai, anyone?) than for a real building. Quite typical is that you don’t see any books one any of the drawings, except in the far background – I thought it was a library, not a business center…

  • Katsudon

    I agree with Al Gaddor, very nice design but not especially architecture.
    I don’t see that much a game with landscape, more a landscape creation, and nothing in the documents here about the interaction with surroundings or urban intentions, plus the floor plans look quite simplistic.
    Ok, beautiful shape, renderings… i love it i won’t say, but i would be missing something if i wasn’t taking a closer look the the building functionality and meaning…


    太喜欢BIG 了,年轻而直接

  • roadkill

    very lazy… just take any mathematical geometry and force a section within it’s skin, add some unconvincing diagrams to pretend it works and instant visual diarrhoea…

  • jean claude

    I do I have the impression they did this somewhere else…I dont know the Danish Pavillion for the Shanghai Expo….I just wonder…I am not saying it is similar, just looks too much the same…..otherwise I think it is a good concept

    • hugo

      nice diagrams… certainly really graphic design but sorry to say that I miss the point… Always liked to see BIG (and before PLOT) working the program more than the shape but now seems for me that this is to be aestheticism more than anything else. kind of agree with PANZA >> maturity do not well that way

      • antonia

        I fully support your statement!

  • DMas

    Why do they hire architects… if the renders are by a a render office and the ideas a recylced… they took the danish pavillion and scale it bigger… so no sense on the shape….
    no sense on the concept
    people say its nice just beacause they are like sheeps… following trends and since BIG is a trendy name… please people be more critical… and I also wonder all these “competitions” in corrupt countries… no context… no nothing
    really concerning about the state of architecture nowadays

    • antonia

      ….and I fully support your statement!

      • Lewis

        ..and so do i!

  • DMas

    and this building is everything excetp efficient, so
    “What is a library but an efficient archive of books… and a path for the public to reach them” (Thomas Christoffersen, Project Leader)
    Is nothing but ANOTHER BIG BULL*

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  • PSR

    I think they were using the same concept, in both competitons, at the same time… and, “unluckily”, they won both…

  • qingtong

    wow,it’s real big!!

  • mnlkjw

    not that ugly as it first appears.

  • a sphere

    why mobius strip always be used in concept?
    and agree with Freud

  • a sphere

    how can they manage “waste space” ?

  • Raf

    Fun shapes, bad architecture.