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More Controversial Scottish Architecture 2006-12-02

Posted by clype in Articles of Interest, Europe, Humanities, Scotland.
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The architectural firm behind ‘The Scottish Parliament’ building has won an international competition to build a controversial giant skyscraper in the heart of St.Petersburg in Russia.

Edinburgh-based ‘RMJM‘ beat five rival international architects to land the 2 400 million GBP contract to design and construct what is labelled ‘Gazprom-City’.

Yet even before a single shovel of earth has been dug, the project has been accused of ‘cultural vandalism’ by critics who wish to preserve the historic appearance of the Russian city famed for its palaces and canals.

Despite legislation restricting city buildings to a height of 48 metres, the new tower, which will house the offices of ‘Gazprom‘, the state-controlled energy firm, will reach a height of 396 metres — taller than the Eiffel Tower.

The design, conceived by UK Managing Director of ‘RMJM’ Mr.Tony Kettle, is of a high twisting glass needle, which will change colour according to the light. It was chosen by a jury which included The Chief Executive of ‘Gazprom’ Mr.Alexei Miller, and the British architect Sir Norman Foster.

Members of the public were invited to view the competing designs and vote for their favourites, and while ‘RMJM’s’ proved the most popular, the vast project, which involves the redevelopment of a 173 acre site, has attracted huge controversy. St.Petersburg, built in 1703 by ‘Peter the Great’, is a world heritage site recognised by ‘The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation‘ (‘UNESCO’) and celebrated for the uniform height and style of its buildings. The President of ‘The Union of Architects of St.Petersburg’ Mr.Vladimir Popov said:

‘Even if it were made of solid gold, it would nevertheless kill the city.’

While The Director of ‘The Hermitage Museum’ Mr.Mikhail Piotrovsky said:

‘Something the city needs is development, but let’s not destroy the old city.’

Mr.Kettle, the lead architect, said he believed the people of St.Petersburg would learn to love the new tower.

‘Winning the prestigious commission to design “Gazprom’s” new headquarters building in St.Petersburg is wonderful news for “RMJM”.

‘There has been much debate and opposition to introducing a building of this height to St.Petersburg, but when you consider Paris — a city with an equally precious environment — it has been made even more special by the 324 metre high “Eiffel Tower”.

‘I think that the quality of the tower’s design and its exclusive nature is critical here and we firmly believe that our design truly works for the city.’

  • The losing proposals included a long transparent building topped by three steeples by France’s Mr.Jean Nouvel.

‘RMJM’s’ previous projects include ‘The Scottish Parliament’, whose budget rose from 40 million to over 430 million and was closed earlier this year after a central beam came loose.

Last night Mr.David Black, an architectural writer, said:

‘I hope the Russians have taken into account the fact that “The Scottish Parliament” building has been a major disaster financially.’

‘RMJM’s’ UK Managing Director, said:

‘”Gazprom” is one of the world’s most important energy companies and it is fitting that in a city of spires, this new spire should symbolise the importance of energy.’

‘The Gaz-Prom Tower’, which is expected to be completed by 2012, at a cost of 307 million GBP, will include 77 floors of office space, half of which will be used by ‘Gaz-Prom’, and the remainder by the company’s many subsidiary companies.

The tower, which will be capped with a viewing gallery, will consist of 7 700 panes of glass, 4.25 by 1.5 metres.

At certain levels the panes will be fitted with ‘dichroic’ glass, which reflects light in a different colour, such as gold or blue when viewed at an angle.

At the base of the tower there will be a social area, featuring a library, cafés, restaurants and meeting areas; this area will be under a canopy of gardens.

At intervals of 15/20 floors, all the way up the tower, there will be triangular gardens sheltered under a protective pane of glass.

The structure is expected to house 6 000 employees.

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