Mar 01 2007

Get to St. Pete before fugly Gazprom City does

by in Uncategorized

Gazprom city
Height restrictions WTF?

This has been in the Russian papers for the past year, but a few weeks ago, the Washington Post ran an interesting article about the development of “Gazprom City”, a large office complex situated on the banks of the Neva River in St. Petersburg:

Twisting as it rises 77 stories, the planned office development known as Gazprom City is testament to the muscle of Russia’s richest company. A flickering gas flame captured in soaring glass, the design is also an ode to the country’s energy-driven boom.

But the 1,300-foot skyscraper to be built on the Neva River across from the pastel-blue-and-white Smolny Cathedral will loom over a baroque cityscape famous for the Hermitage art museum and the Peter and Paul Cathedral, among dozens of other historic landmarks.

In an effort to boost the prestige of St. Petersburg (aka score some effin’ sweet tax breaks and curry favor with St. Pete native Vlad Putin), Gazprom will be moving the headquarters of its Gazprom Neft (formerly Sibneft) subsidiary from Moscow to St. Petersburg. The citizens of that fair city, including a growing number of representatives from the local arts and culture scene, aren’t exactly happy about it, though:

“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.”

Like Washington, DC, St. Petersburg is a very “horizontal” city – buildings are rarely higher than a few stories:

That the city’s zoning laws forbid anything in that area higher than 48 meters, or 157 feet, appears to be no obstacle, recalling a Russian aphorism. “It is forbidden,” it goes, “but if you really want it, then it is possible.” Gazprom officials said they would have the law changed.

Want Gazprom wants, Gazprom gets, comrade. You think a measly little zoning law is going to get in the way of Russia’s largest company? With some 16% of the world’s natural gas reserves, Gazprom and its oil subsidiary, Gazprom Neft, (119 billion barrels of reserves) are the bread and butter of the Russian economy. I guarantee you, ain’t nothin’ getting in the way of this 77 story behemoth.

I don’t think the actual design of the building is that bad, and some of the other proposals were intriguing as well, but this building just does not fit with the splendid baroque palaces and neoclassical churches that are spread throughout the city’s center. Build this in LA or Houston, but pleeeeease leave St. Pete alone. It is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited, and I’d hate to see this building ruin the skyline.

If you’d like to see Petersburg pre-Gazprom City fugliness, I suggest you start searching for airline tickets and filling out your Russian visa application now. Oh yeah, and go at the end of June to see the city in all of its White Nights glory.


A century – and that city young,
Gem of the Northern world, amazing,
From gloomy wood and swamp upsprung,
Had risen, in pride and splendor blazing.

God, Pushkin would be rolling in his grave if he knew about this.

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3 Responses to Get to St. Pete before fugly Gazprom City does

  1. From Tim Newman:

    I wouldn’t worry about this coming to much. Most countries never actually get around to building the enormous penis-extensions put forward by the government of the day, usually because once they embark on such plans they are so detached from the real world to govern competently. Besides, this is Russia…they’re still building the flood barrier in the Finnish Gulf a few decades after it was begun. Expect most of the money allocated to this tower to end up as large walled houses in Lisii Nos.

    Posted on March 25, 2007 at 10:34 pm #
  2. From Lindsay:

    Ha, very true…let’s hope that is the case and this building doesn’t come to fruition.

    Posted on March 27, 2007 at 10:31 pm #
  3. From Paul Scheerbart:

    In order to raise our culture to a higher level, we are forced, whether we like it or not, to change our architecture.

    Posted on December 1, 2007 at 12:08 am #
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