Lonely Planet Writer

This public piece of art has been unveiled in Kazakhstan as a space for discovery and wonder

An eye-catching, 43ft-tall installation has been unveiled in the Kazakhstan capital of Astana. Designed by Marc Fornes of New York-based art and architecture firm THEVERYMANY, ‘Minima | Maxima’ was commissioned for the World Expo, which takes place this year in the city. The striking, angular installation is one of four public pavilions or ‘Creative Energy Spaces’, meant to reflect this year’s theme; Future Energies.

Visitors interact with the installation in Astana
​Visitors are invited to engage with the structure. Image courtesy of THEVERYMANY

“‘Minima | Maxima’ is a free-standing thin-shell aluminium structure, a development of the studio’s research into ‘Structural Stripes’ and ‘Crawling Assemblies’,” Marc tells Lonely Planet. As he explains, the smart innovation used means the piece didn’t require structural beams or columns. “2mm aluminium stripes are woven and mechanically bonded in three perpendicular layers to form a rigid, anisotropic composite from an isotropic material (like aluminium or glass, where the structural properties are identical in all directions). It’s similar to fibre technology, but unlike fibres, each individual component does not need to be in tension, and their processing does not require any formwork.”

No beams or columns were used in the design
​The curved installation didn’t require structural beams or columns. Image courtesy of THEVERYMANY

“What really allows ‘Minima | Maxima’ to stand at this height (and thickness) though is its form: pleats at the base rise into doubly-curved, continuous surfaces. We see these conditions – material, structural, formal, spatial – as unified in the assembly, each enabling and enhancing the performance and experience of the construction.

The sun sets on the eye-catching installation
​Minima | Maxima’ is just as visually striking after the sun sets. Image courtesy of THEVERYMANY

Another key element for Marc is the idea of play. Visitors are invited to move in and around the installation, making it a true public piece of art. “Our motivation is really in the manufacture of new and surprising spatial experiences,” he says. “And playful occupations – tucking yourself into a pleat, adjusting your body to unfamiliar contours, visual wandering – is exactly how people are compelled to engage with spaces that depart from conventional notions of enclosure. We want to draw people in, incite curiosity, and provide a space for discovery, wonder, and contemplation within.”

Astana locals engage with the new structure
​Locals explore the latest addition to their city. Image courtesy of THEVERYMANY