Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Possible Setback In Russian Federation For European Architects Seeking Third Way Other Than American And Asian Postmodernist Skyscrapers

"Gazprom City, a proposed complex of stylish modern buildings that evoke, among other things, a gas-fueled flame, a strand of DNA and a lady’s high-heeled shoe, would sit on a historic site on the Neva River here, opposite the Baroque, blue-and-white Smolny Cathedral.

In any of six designs under consideration, the main tower would soar three or four times higher than this city’s most famous landmarks, an alteration of the landscape that has drawn heated protests from the director of the Hermitage Museum and the head of the local architects’ union.

But Gazprom, Russia’s state-controlled energy company, is determined to press ahead and is soon to announce the winner of an international design competition. As an arm of the Kremlin, opponents say, Gazprom usually gets its way.

During the summer the company invited prominent foreign architects to submit plans for a proposed business center for its newly acquired oil subsidiary. In an unusual gesture of openness, the company put its proposals on display here at the Academy of Arts — and on the Web at www.gazprom-city.info — and invited the public to vote.

[As of Nov. 27, a spiral by the British collective RMJM London held a narrow lead over proposals by Daniel Libeskind of New York and Jean Nouvel of Paris.]

While its proponents say the project will provide a needed economic transfusion for a city that has always labored in Moscow’s shadow, critics say there has to be a better way. “Even if it were made of solid gold,” said Vladimir V. Popov, the president of the Union of Architects of St. Petersburg, “it would nevertheless kill the city.”

The architects’ union has refused to participate in the jury Gazprom has chosen to evaluate the designs and has threatened to file suit to stop the winning version from being built. In addition to inveighing against the project, the Hermitage director, Mikhail B. Piotrovsky, has organized meetings of preservationists and architects to propose alternative sites.

“Something the city needs is development,” Mr. Piotrovsky said in an interview in his museum office in the Winter Palace, which itself established acceptable height limits for most buildings here for decades, “but let’s not destroy the old city.” ...

Steven Lee Myers "Russian Window on the West Reaches for the Sky" New York Times November 28, 2006


From left: RMJM London; Studio Daniel Libeskind; Herzog & de Meuron Architekten

Image credits: As above via New York Times. With thanks.


Smolny Cathedral, [St] Petersburg, Russian Federation. [Now a cultural and educational center.] With thanks to EducaCentre, [St] Petersburg.


Post a Comment

<< Home