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The world’s largest tripod tent structure was officially opened in July 2010 to celebrate the 70th birthday of the Kazakh President, Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Astana is only 20 years old, having newly been moved to strategically command the country more efficiently. It suffers one the coldest winters of any capital globally and the Khan Shatyr Entertainment Centre is an opportunity for citizens (10,000 at a time) to stretch their legs during the city’s bleak winter when temperatures drop to minus 40°C.

The building is primarily a shopping centre. Two levels of retail are built as two rings around the conical building perimeter with a concourse separating them. Above the retail deck, there are eating areas, a cinema, a golf course and at the top of the building sits beach areas with golden sand and pools.

Through the inner ring, towards the centre of the building there is a large multi-purpose circulation space where the 90m-high steel tripod sits. Around the 20m ring at op the tripod are fixed 192 cables. To these cables the ETFE tent element is fixed and draped.

ETFE was utilised for several reasons. Apart from the lightweight nature of ETFE, the inflated cushions allow light into the building whilst also maintaining a major element of environmental control.

With an 80°C temperature swing between winter and summer, keeping the building at a comfortable temperature is a challenge, as well as trying to resolve the small weather systems that operate internally. In the winter, the surface of the ETFE cladding is very cold, this means that warm air that hits this colder surface immediately cools and drops downwards creating an internal wind inside the building.

The internal swimming pool is also clad in a secondary ETFE space to avoid condensation on the main tent and to create a warm environment year round. On a cold sunny day with temperatures of -35°C externally, the tent is 12°C at the top of the ETFE cone.

As the ETFE cushions are a good insulator, it is like the building is wearing a huge fur hat.

The overall canopy design is very structurally efficient, weighing just 46kg/m² of steelwork to ETFE.


Originally designed for the space industry, ETFE does not pose any threat to the ozone layer.

The ETFE system is fully recyclable, does not degrade under ultra-violet light or atmospheric pollution and its unique non-stick, self-cleaning properties means that grime can be easily removed by rain.

ETFE has only 1% of the weight of glass and transmits more light. It costs 24% to 70% less to install and is resilient enough to support 400 times its own weight.
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