ST. PETERSBURG, Russia, Nov. 22 — 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 http://www.gazprom-city.info\r
http://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.”
Gazprom, though, has certain advantages that make a skyscraper appear inevitable despite the public outcry. Not least are its ties to the Kremlin and the fact it is the world’s fourth largest company, with a capitalization of more than $250 billion.
The project also has the support of St. Petersburg’s leaders, including Gov. Valentina I. Matviyenko, who has championed the new business center, with an estimated cost exceeding $2 billion. President Vladimir V. Putin, a native of the city, has long supported efforts to relocate companies and government ministries to the city.
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.
Gazprom has embraced for itself the legacy of Peter the Great, who built the city by decree at the beginning of the 18th century to become a new capital and Russia’s “window on the West.”
And like Peter the Great, the company turned to foreign, not Russian, architects, inviting seven to submit designs. Six agreed: Jean Nouvel of Paris; Massimiliano Fuksas of Rome; the Swiss team of Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron; Rem Koolhaas of Rotterdam; RMJM London; and Daniel Libeskind, who of course designed the master plan for the World Trade Center site.
Nikolai T. Tanayev, general director of Gazprom Neft Invest, the subsidiary overseeing the project, said it was intended to restore the city’s status as a bridge to European culture and investment.
“We live in the 21st century, not in the 18th,” he said. “Views are different. If you spoke of launching satellites in the 18th century you would have been accused of devil worship.” He compared the current criticism to that lodged against the construction of the Eiffel Tower in Paris in the late 19th century.
At the Academy of Arts, on the Neva embankment, the exhibition has drawn the curious to see models of the six proposals. Visitors are asked to vote for their favorite on a ballot that declares, “The City Chooses the Future.” People can also vote online.
One irony, not lost on some, is that the city’s voters no longer have the right to choose their governor, since Mr. Putin abolished direct elections for regional leaders in 2004. Nor can they vote “against all,” a ballot choice eliminated from Russian elections this year.
Ilya V. Tatarinov, an architecture student, expressed doubt that the public’s choice would sway Gazprom, and the company confirmed that the voting would be only one factor in the final decision. Mr. Tatarinov said he had little doubt that the project would proceed. “It is absolutely not appropriate for the city,” he said. “But most likely they will build it regardless.”
A worn factory — obscured by a giant panel announcing Gazprom’s project — now occupies the site. Although few object to revitalizing the rundown area, some opponents noted that it was the site of a Swedish fort from the 17th century and therefore had archaeological significance.
And while the site is seven miles from the very center of the city, they argue that Gazprom City’s main tower would be visible from almost any point, destroying what Aleksandr D. Margolis, the head of the Charitable Fund for the Saving of Petersburg and Leningrad, said was an architectural harmony that had been largely unaltered for nearly three centuries.
The project’s supporters counter that the city of Pushkin, Gogol and Dostoyevsky, Tchaikovsky, Diaghilev and Shostakovich, not to mention Lenin and the Bolsheviks, should not let its past bind its future.
“There is a mistaken belief that St. Petersburg’s center has remained unchanged since it was founded,” Deputy Governor Aleksandr I. Vakhmistrov said in a written response to questions. “In the last 300 years, however, the city has changed. New houses have been built in place of old ones.”
He went on to say: “St. Petersburg should preserve its architectural traditions, but should not reject improvement.”
(aus: the new york times, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/28/world/europe/28petersburg.html?_r=1&hp&ex=11647&oref=slogin\r
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/28/world ... ref=slogin )
jaja, der respektvoller umgang mit historischer architektur steht dem fortschritt im wege....immer wieder das gleiche...