Landscape-Changing Structures in Canada, Kazakhstan, and China

Two museums and an entertainment centre that are works of art.  
Biosphere Montreal Canada
Biosphere, Canada. Photo: Renault Philippe/Hemis/Corbis/imagelibrary


Montreal, Canada

The only environment museum in North America is inside a 15-storey-high, transparent dome known as the Biosphere. It is located at Parc Jean-Drapeau, a five-minute drive from downtown Montreal, Canada. The park and the dome were constructed during the 1967 World’s Fair, where the steel and acrylic ball housed the U.S. Pavilion showcasing exhibits from the Apollo missions. It was built to look like a glittering jewel. A fire destroyed the structure’s acrylic facade some years later, and it reopened in 1995 as a museum dedicated to environmental protection and awareness. The surrounding park is a favourite with families and sport enthusiasts. It has a beach, sprawling gardens, a 4.361 km-long Grand Prix circuit, biking and skating paths, and several indoor and outdoor party venues.

The 250-foot-wide Biosphere, which is actually a two-thirds sphere and not just a dome, stands tall by the St. Lawrence River. Inside, it has exhibits and activities about meteorology, and water and air quality. Upcoming exhibitions will include one on the challenges of weather forecasting and another on the importance of forests (; open 16 Jan-4 Sept, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; adults CAD15/₹760, youth under 17 free).

Khan Shatyr

Astana, Kazakhstan

Khan Shatyr Astana Kazakhstan

Khan Shatyr, Kazakhstan. Photo: Gavin Hellier/Alamy/Indiapicture

Kazakhstan’s climate is one of extremes. Temperatures go as high as 40°C in the summer months and dip equally low, to -40°C in winter. As a result, those who enjoy the outdoors are too often deprived of opportunities to pursue their favourite activities.

The Khan Shatyr or “tent of the king” in the country’s capital Astana is a unique solution to this problem. Built in 2006, the gigantic temperature controlled environment serves as an indoor entertainment and recreation centre. The canopy is nearly 500 feet tall and encloses an area larger than ten football fields. It contains a jogging track that is nearly half a kilometre long, a river for boating, and an indoor beach. Those who prefer to unwind in less active ways can visit the high-end designer stores, food courts, and entertainment venues that line squares and cobbled roads.

The structure is built of light, translucent material that keeps the indoor temperature at a moderate 15-30°C while allowing sunlight to seep in. Best of all, entry is free.

Ordos Museum

Inner Mongolia, China

Ordos Museum Inner Mongolia China

Ordos Museum, China. Photo: Shu He/VIEW/terra/Corbis/imagelibrary

Inner Mongolia is known for its vast expanses and rolling grasslands. Sitting in the middle of one such stretch, the Ordos Museum was inspired by the sight of the “the ever rising sun on the grassland.” The structure’s shining metal facade reflects the golden sands of the Gobi Desert and from afar, it looks like a gleaming blob.

Located in the city of Ordos, the museum was built in 2011 to be part of a future metropolis. Ordos was designed to house over a million people and was to be the jewel in the crown of Inner Mongolia. The goal was never realised and today, the sparsely populated place is referred to as a “ghost city,” an attribute that has strangely become its USP.

The 130-foot-high bronze-gold globule encloses monochrome, glazed interiors divided into several exhibition spaces. Metal louvres keep the interiors well ventilated and light bounces off the luminescent, undulating walls. On display inside are artefacts and memorabilia from the region, including one dedicated to Genghis Khan, who when passing through Ordos in the 13th century, praised and referred to it as a glimpse of paradise.

Appeared in the May 2016 issue as part of “Inspire”.

  • Rumela Basu is Assistant Editor at National Geographic Traveller India. Her favourite kind of travel involves food, literature, dance and forests. She travels not just to discover new destinations but also aspects of herself.

Psst. Want a weekly dose of travel inspiration in your inbox?