Nur Sultan Masterplan

Nur Sultan, Kazakhstan

This commission with Space Syntax sought to sustainably masterplan the future development of Kazakhstan’s rapidly-expanding capital up to 2030 and beyond, to meet climate targets. As well as delivering city-wide energy, waste and water-management strategies that could provide a route map to a zero carbon and zero waste city, we also developed proposals for their implementation in specific neighbourhoods.

Image gallery

Nur-Sultan’s population boomed after it assumed the role of capital city in 1997, and with its reliance on car use, coal-fired heat and power and poor building design, an ambition to make future development sustainable poses a major challenge. The urban sprawl beyond the city limits also impacts on the provision and maintenance of infrastructure.  

The city’s location on the Ustyurt Plateau adds natural constraints to the man-made ones, with an  extreme continental climate characterised by wide seasonal temperature variation and long, very cold winters. The Esil River runs through the heart of the city and is engineered to prevent flooding, with sufficient capacity to accommodate the spring snow melt.  

Against this backdrop, Expedition’s role was to develop energy, waste and sustainable water management strategies for Nur-Sultan. A key focus was to intensify and retrofit the existing fabric and infrastructure to create a healthy, liveable and sustainable city, and we did this by carrying out a baseline analysis before proposing city-wide strategies and neighbourhood improvements.  

City-wide route maps for energy and waste were created, with environmental modelling used to inform the masterplan and identify appropriate locations for new solar panels and wind turbines. Two options for transitioning to net zero carbon were proposed – a strong focus on passive upfront measures with limited renewables or a slower uptake of passive new build and retrofit measures resulting in a greater investment in renewables. 

We also used environmental modelling to recommend best practice in the layout, massing and orientation of buildings, specifically to mitigate the extreme temperatures and create a comfortable microclimate that can support greater activity in the city streets. Our sustainable drainage strategy proposed improvements to the river corridor and infrastructure to mitigate flooding and eliminate pollutants from the snow melt.   


ISOCARP (International Society of City and Regional Planners) –  Winner of Grand Award for Excellence 2021

MIPIM Future Projects Urban Infrastructure award 2021 – Highly commended

Credit: Space Syntax


“This is comprehensive, aspirational and far-thinking.” MIPIM/The Architectural Review

Judges’ Comments

Structural Awards

Key People