The bus stops within Almaty's city center are pretty unremarkable - and that's really something coming from a guy who has a photo collection of trash cans. Minimalist structures from the French company JCDecaux, their main purpose is to sell advertising. On the city's fringes, however, you can find Soviet bus stops that are really quite amazing, looking more like decorative art installations than anything functional. I consider this a remarkably progressive approach to basic infrastructure - why make these kinds of stations spartan when you can make them interesting, beautiful, or even thought-provoking?
It seems to be a trend that the most eye-catching bus stops are found in lonely, in-between places, and thus it's no surprise that Almaty's finest examples lie on its frontiers. The most beautiful bus stops I've seen in Central Asia were all made more beautiful by the fact that they were forgotten. The Soviet bus routes that once served them had dribbled off, and now they no longer served their primary function. It was lucky, then, that they had been given an aesthetic purpose as well, for now that was all they were good for. They had become bus-stop-shaped sculptures in quiet places, or memorials to an infrastructure that had met its prime and moved on.
I'm not the only that's taken a liking to these Soviet bus stops - I've seen several bloggers remark on them as they pass through on one tour or another. I am particular grateful for the work of photographer Christopher Herwig, who did several road trips through Central Asia documenting these monuments. His work can be seen here on his website, and is probably more extensive than my collection will ever be.
Some of the finest bus stops in Almaty are located near the old cement factory, and I suspect that they may have been built there. The microdistrict Dorozhnik also has some fine bus stops, and Dorozhnik is right near the cement factory, so I sense a correlation. The bus stops that I have in mind, with sculptural bas-reliefs, were not one-offs but mass produced - I know because I've seen the same exact models on the highway to Bishkek. In the town of Kordai, near the border with Kyrgyzstan, they have even taken these bas-reliefs and given them a paint job. It looks fantastic. What if we could do the same in Almaty, and make people more proud of these roadside works of art?