Asel Yeszhanova is an architect and something of a cultural activist. Her career has been defined by participation in the wider debate around architecture and urbanism, and an interest in encouraging engagement in design among wider audiences.
Her small-town childhood in the vast northern steppes of Kazakhstan gave her plenty of space to draw and make models and, encouraged by her mother, she became the first of her family to study architecture. However, growing up at the gateway to the resettled agricultural Tselina (virgin lands), Asel also gained an early insight into Soviet social policy, and this interest in politics has stayed with her throughout her career.
She is unafraid to step across the boundaries of different design and academic disciplines, and has curated exhibitions and events on themes as diverse as Stalin’s repressions, skate culture, and labour migration. For Asel, drawing, writing and conversation provide opportunities to develop ideas about architecture, particularly within the urban context, and in 2015 she founded Urban Forum Almaty, an independent platform for the discussion of urban issues in Kazakhstan.