Experts Slam Giant Gazprom Tower Plan
Published: July 21, 2006 (Issue # 1188)
As energy giant Gazprom selects architects for its ambitious Gazprom-City business center in St. Petersburg, local experts weighed in Thursday on the possible construction of the planned 300-meter skyscraper.
In a letter to Governor Valentina Matviyenko released Thursday, the St. Petersburg Union of Architects said the tower will destroy the unique harmony of the city’s skyline and might result in St. Petersburg’s exclusion from the UNESCO list of world heritage sites.
The center is to be located on the right bank of River Neva opposite Smolny Cathedral. And although the final design has not been chosen because an architectural competition is underway, Gazprom chairman Alexei Miller said when it was announced last November that he expected a positive outcome.
“I am positive that St. Petersburg’s citizens will be proud of these new architectural masterpieces,” Miller said when the international architectural contests in relation to Gazprom-City and the Gazprom-Arena Football Stadium were presented.
St. Petersburg’s architects, however, are not so positive. In the letter to Matviyenko and the chairman of the Legislative Assembly, Vadim Tyulpanov, they write that the construction of the giant tower visible from the city center would be a “crime.”
“The low skyline makes the verticals of St. Petersburg especially magnificent... the conservation of inimitable silhouettes of its spires and domes is of great importance to town planning and spiritual importance,” reads the letter from the St. Petersburg Union of Architects.
“A 300-meter tower, more than twice as high as the Peter and Paul Cathedral and three times higher than St. Isaac’s and Smolny Cathedral, visible from all the main locations of the historical city center (even from Vasilievsky Island)…will bring the irreparable damage to the fragile skyline of the city as it will make all its verticals look almost toy-like,” the document continues.
The architects said the world already has the “depressing example” of London, where the Tower of London and historic cathedrals are now lost among skyscrapers, and Rome, where the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica is no longer the city’s focus.
The Gazprom-City project has also attracted criticism from St. Petersburg charities and foundations.
“Petersburg is the only megalopolis in the world whose center as a whole is on the UNESCO list and now it’s on the brink of an abyss,” Alexander Margolis, head of the international Salvation of Petersburg-Leningrad Foundation said Thursday, speaking at a news conference organized under the title “The Skyline of St. Petersburg — to Save or Destroy?”
“This strategic investor came from Moscow. Therefore it is used to Moscow practices where... entire architectural formations are being destroyed... and where the image of the city center is already totally distorted,” Margolis said, referring to Gazprom.
Therefore the same might happen in St. Petersburg in the near future, he said, “if we don’t stop what’s happening now.”
Gazprom said they think the chosen area is most appropriate for their business center.
“The industrial zone on the border of historic and modern St. Petersburg is regarded upon as the most suitable building site for the office area. This location will allow Gazprom-City to become a link between St. Petersburg’s past, present and future and to give the city a new image,” a statement from Gazprom’s information division reads.