"With a history tied to nomadic civilizations and a New York City-sized population spread over more than two million square miles of territory, Kazakhstan may not seem like the most probable site for ambitious urban architecture. British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen went so far as to depict the country as a backward nation of ramshackle hovels in his 2006 film Borat. But the reality of contemporary Kazakhstan may be more accurately embodied by the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation, a glass pyramid rising above Astana, the Central Asian state's capital.
Designed by Foster + Partners, the self-consciously monumental palace shoots up 200 feet from an expansive base, its soaring atrium lit by a large skylight at the apex. A meeting chamber, which hosts a triennial conclave of religious leaders, hovers just blow the peak, allowing light to flow into the atrium though a large circle of glass in its floor. The pyramid was completed in 2006 at a cost of roughly $61 million, and it became a symbol of Kazakhstan's rise from a former Soviet backwater to a leading regional economy."