Controversy is surrounding the latest design of the 400 meter tower for Gazprom, a Russian energy company. Designed by RMJM, the tower, known as Okhta Center, will dominate the skyline, towering over the spire of St. Peter and Paul Cathedral. The new design may actually become the tallest building in Europe, which begs the question that even though we have the capability of building taller and larger, should that be our priority?
More about the tower after the break.
In addition to serving as the headquarters for Gazprom’s oil unit, the center will also include a concert hall, art museum, and hotel. With these programs, supporters say the tower will be able to transform the “depressed city into a thriving one.”
Yet, critics are concerned that the tower will alter the essence of St. Petersburg that, up until this point, was characterize by a “low rise profile and ambience of a 19th century city”. David Sarkisyan, Director of the Moscow Museum of Architecture stated, “The tower is a symbol of political ego and people will always resent it.” Even UNESCO has threatened to strip the city of its status as a world heritage site if the tower is built.
The group design director for RMJM, Tony Kettle, defended the project, “A city needs a hierarchy of buildings so that the ordinary and the special work with each other. If every building attempts to be special, then they will all become ordinary; so there needs to be a good reason for a building to be out of the ordinary. The issue of energy is the central concern of our time and Gazprom, as the largest supplier of energy in eastern Europe, is one of the reasons for Russia’s wealth and rebirth, putting it into the ‘special’ category.” (Read his complete statement here)
It is an interesting and seemingly occurring debate (see the MoMa project as reported earlier on AD) over whether architects should attempt to move the field forward by introducing radical structures, or whether architects should make more “traditional” structures that adhere to the context in which they are situated. By no means should architects not continue to push the limits, yet in a society where there seems to be a constant need to out do the last design, architects should also be mindful to creative innovative projects that can do more than just stand out in a skyline.
As seen on World Architecture News.