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Saturday, October 03, 2009

Okhta Center, St. Petersburg, Russia

Russia’s controversial tower project wins final approval
A 400-meter tower designed by RMJM for the Russian energy giant Gazprom has gained final approval from the city of St. Petersburg, despite opposition from residents and UNESCO. At 77 stories tall, the new tower, known as the Okhta Center, will eclipse the city’s tallest structure, the spire of St. Peter and Paul Cathedral, by more than a factor of three and may become the tallest building in Europe.

The building will serve as the headquaters for Gazprom's oil unit OAO Gazprom Neft, and include a concert hall, art museum, hotel and a business center. While supporters of the project say it promises to transform the depressed city into a thriving one, critics fear it will alter St. Petersburg’s character, which to this day exhibits the low rise profile and ambience of a 19th century city. Among the project’s critics is David Sarkisyan, Director of the Moscow Museum of Architecture. In an interview with, Sarkisyan called the decision to approve the project 'monstrous and barbaric'. "The tower is a symbol of political ego and people will always resent it,” he said. Residents rallied to defeat the project right up until the end, clashing with police and Gazprom security guards in the process.

UNESCO has threatened to strip the city of its status as a world heritage site if the tower is built.

Sharon McHugh
US Correspondent

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