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Asif Khan wins contest for UK pavilion at Expo 2017 Astana

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Asif Khan has won the competition to design the new UK pavilion at the 2017 international expo in Astana, Kazakhstan

The studio – working with KBW Designs and WOO – defeated an unnamed shortlist of rival firms to land the prestigious UK Trade & Investment (UKTI)-backed project.

The appointment comes six month after Khan joined Norman Foster, Richard Rogers, Zaha Hadid and David Chipperfield on Debrett’s list of the UK’s most influential figures.

UKTI confirmed the appointment in a tweet yesterday (26 July) after which the winning architect replied: ‘Astana here we come’.

Images showing Khan’s £2 million installation – which is still under development and will focus on UK efforts in pioneering future energy technologies – have yet to be revealed.

The iconic building is expected to follow in the success of the UK’s Wolfgang Buttress and BDP-designed Milan 2015 pavilion and Thomas Heatherwick’s Shanghai 2010 pavilion which both won best in show.

The project has a preliminary budget which is however significantly lower than its high-profile predecessors which cost around £6 million and £26 million respectively.

Astana is one of the smaller, specialised expositions which traditionally take place two years after the larger universal expositions such as Milan and Shanghai.

The UK was absent from the last of these smaller events held in Yeosu, South Korea during the 2012 Olympics.

Chicago-based Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture won a contest to masterplan the 173 hectare exhibition in the capital of Kazakhstan three years ago – defeating rival bids by Zaha Hadid Architecture, UNStudio and Snøhetta.

The theme of the 2017 expo in Astana is ‘Future Energy’, with three sub-themes: ‘Reducing Carbon Emissions’; ‘Living Energy Efficiency’, looking at ways in which people can live using less energy; and ‘Energy for All’, providing low cost and reliable energy for the planet.

Running for 93 days from 10 June until 10 September, the event will be the first time a world’s fair has been hosted by a member of the former Soviet Union.

AHR won planning for the £370 million first phase of the 2017 Expo Village project in Astana in 2014.

The UK pavilion will occupy a 2,200m² space which will be pre-built to shell and core by the expo organisers.

Khan’s winning team will deliver comprehensive design services for the project and assist with the procurement of a design and build contractor

Delivery of a developed design, including 2D/3D visuals, AV, interactive and graphic design; and the provision of architectural, structural and services engineering services are all included in the £250,000 contract.

Host nation pavilions for the Dubai 2020 universal exposition by Foster + Partners, BIG and Grimshaw were revealed in March.



Source: Image by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture

Astana Expo 2017 masterplan by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture


  • UK expo commissioner Charles Hendry

UK expo commissioner

UK expo commissioner

Charles Hendry

What is your vision for the UK pavilion at the Expo 2017 in Astana?
I want the UK to have a ‘stand out’ pavilion which shows the extraordinary work being done in UK businesses and Universities in the field of ‘Future Energy’ and to do this in a way that maximises the goodwill and business opportunities for the UK. Our relations with Kazakhstan are the best they have ever been and the Astana Expo is a superb opportunity to use great design and creativity to show our commitment both to the country and to the theme of the Expo. We have a formidable track record from the Expos in Milan and Shanghai at having pavilions everyone wanted to visit and photograph – we need to maintain that next year and show what a dynamic, creative, forward looking country we are.

How will the £2m installation match the impact of its Shanghai (£26m) and Milan (£6m) predecessors with a smaller budget and a pre-defined exterior?
Astana is a smaller, specialised Expo, lasting three months (June 10th – Sept 10th) as opposed to the world Expos in Shanghai and Milan which ran for six. Kazakhstan, as host, is providing all participants with pre-built pavilion space as part of the overall design. Freed from the need to conceive an enclosure – designers are liberated and challenged to conceive an environment rich with experience. It also means that the bulk of the £2m budget can be spent creating a high impact, creative and innovative interior instead of factoring in the costs of exterior construction. Working with a pre-defined exterior and space is a different challenge for architects and designers. Every country will be starting with the same exterior visual, so the challenge this time is to have a design that immediately captures the imagination of the visitors as they come through the door and offers a unique and unforgettable experience within the pavilion itself.


Astana 2017

Astana 2017

UK pavilion floorplan


Astana 2017




Source: Image by Hufton + Crow

Wolfgang Buttress and BDP’s UK pavilion at the 2015 Milan Expo



Source: Image by Iwan Baan

Thomas Heatherwick’s £26 million ‘seed cathedral’ at the Shanghai World Expo

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