Baku to the Future!

The Futuristic Architecture of Baku

Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, is a city that’s quite intriguing to visit because as soon as you arrive into the city, you’re struck by the very futuristic architecture that dominates the skyline.

Baku has a distinct mix of three types of architecture; the ancient old walled City; the 19th century French neo-classical, and the very futuristic structures, all sitting around the bay on the Caspian Sea.

The Flame Towers dominate the skyline

The Flame Towers dominate the skyline

New structures, such as the Flame Towers and the Crystal Hall, are at the very cutting edge of contemporary architecture rivaling the ultramodern metropolis of Dubai,with Baku aiming to be one of the most futuristic cities on the planet.

There are remnants of the old city still existing within the modernization.  Old Soviet-era Ladas and clunky beat-up buses speed up and down brand new highways, and Black London Taxi Cabs are exported from the UK and painted a dark aubergine colour.  Walking down the streets, you’ll see 12th-century dwellings dwarfed by the new Hilton hotel, while Dior and Tiffany’s have opened in small alley-ways shared with local Turkish hammams.

London Taxi Cabs painted aubergine

London Taxi Cabs painted aubergine

Here are some of the most prominent and distinctly futuristic that are quite amazing to see:

1. The Flame Towers

I arrived into Baku late on a Friday night and the buildings looked unbelievable: digital display screens are installed in the glass fronts and each tower turns into a huge fire flame, seen from way across the bay.  The three towers are some of the tallest buildings in Baku which can be seen practically from every city point.  Azerbaijan is known as the “Land of Fire” and the design of the buildings was inspired by fire flames.  The complex consists of three towers and includes the upmarket Fairmont Hotel in one, offices in another and apartments in the third tower.

The Flame Towers

The Flame Towers

Flame Towers at Night

Flame Towers at Night

The Flame Towers as seen from the Carpet Museum

The Flame Towers as seen from the Carpet Museum

2. The Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center

I hopped on a bus on Saturday not knowing where the bus was going, and suddenly came across this awesome sight and promptly got off the bus to explore.  This has to be one of my favourite futuristic buildings as it’s unbelievable to see, and it’s absolutely huge.  It’s the Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center which was created by famous architect Zaha Hadid.  The building inside accommodates a conference centre, museum and library.  It has an amazing location sitting on the top of a hill, and the shape looks like a giant white snail (well it does to me….!).  The grounds are landscaped and have escalators up to each level.  There are giant coloured snails and rabbits sitting on the grass and loads of contemporary sculptures scattered around the grounds.

Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre

Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre

Sculptures dotted around the vast grounds

Sculptures dotted around the vast grounds

Skateboarders looking very small....!

Skateboarders looking very small….!

The Butterfly Sculpture

The Butterfly Sculpture

 3. Park Bulvar Shopping Mall

This very modern shopping mall is located on Baku Boulevard, the paved walkway edging the bay, and right next to the Hilton Hotel.  Inside there are loads of shops, a cinema, restaurants, and an entertainment centre.  The entrance has a ‘mini Gherkin’ structure, very similar to the one in London.  I felt quite at home here when I saw the gherkin!

Park Bulvar Shopping Mall

Park Bulvar Shopping Mall

Looking up the Glass Gherkin from inside the Shopping Mall

Looking up the Glass Gherkin from inside the Shopping Mall

4. The Crystal Hall

The Crystal Hall was built exclusively for the 2012 Eurovision song contest and is the main arena for Azerbaijan.  The design is a very complicated geometrical shape resembling several crystals joined together and the venue truly is a sight to behold when it’s lit up.  The hall was built entirely on recaptured land from the Caspian Sea and sits alongside what used to be the World’s tallest Flag Pole, (that title now claimed by Tajikstan!).

The Crystal Hall and Flag Pole sitting on reclaimed land on the Caspian Bay

The Crystal Hall and Flag Pole sitting on reclaimed land on the Caspian Bay

The Crystal Hall

The Crystal Hall

The Crystal Hall at night with the ex-tallest Flag Pole alongside

The Crystal Hall at night with the ex-tallest Flag Pole alongside

5. The Heydar Aliyev Airport (interior and exterior)

Arriving into Baku’s brand new and very futuristic airport, you are greeted by very large wooden cocoons that are unlike anything you will find in other airports.   These cocoons have a variety of uses; there are cafes, a champagne bar, a play area for children, a spa and beauty shop, a music and bookstore, and an area for luggage storage.   There are also living trees dotted around each nest-like pod and there are a total of 16 cocoons, making the area very peaceful and restful to sit and relax while you’re waiting for your flight.

Seating Pods inside the Airport

Seating Pods inside the Airport

Lounging Area in a Pod

Shops in a Pod

Futuristic Glass Airport Exterior

Futuristic Glass Airport Exterior

6. The Pyramid Metro Station

This was the local Metro Station near my hotel, right by the Old Walled City of Icheri Sheher.  It’s a giant glass pyramid that looks like its based on a design of The Louvre in Paris.  This also lit up at night and changed colour every few seconds.

Icheri Sheher Metro Station

Icheri Sheher Metro Station

Changing colour at night

Changing colour at night

Changing colour at night

Changing colour at night

And here’s a link to the second part of my visit to Baku – The Old Town, Baku

Travel Tips for Baku:

  • Arriving into Baku Airport, if you’re travelling into the city centre, there is a local bus across the airport car park and is EXTREMELY cheap… only 20 qapeks, which is around 12p for any journey, one stop or 20 stops!

  • Taking a cab from the airport to the city centre is around £30.

  • The Baku metro system costs a flat fare of only 20 qapeks per journey too so going by metro is also very cheap.  There are only two lines, the red and the green lines so is very easy to navigate.

  • I travelled on a direct flight to Azerbaijan’s Heydar Aliyev Airport from London Heathrow with British Airways.  The flight took 6 hours each way.

Map of Baku:

Author: Debbie

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