UK architect to design Gazprom HQ
By Andrew Bolger in Edinburgh
Published: December 1 2006 18:24 | Last updated: December 1 2006 18:24
A UK-based international architectural company, RMJM, has been appointed to design the new headquarters Gazprom, the Russian gas group.
The Scottish-based firmâ€™s winning proposal is a 396-metre twisting, glass needle which it claims will echo the spires across the city of St Petersburg.
RMJM was the architectural collaborator of Enric Miralles, the Catalan architect, on the Scottish parliament in Edinburgh, a building that ended up costing Â£430m ($851m, â‚¬639m) â€“ more than 10 times the initial estimates.
The contest for the Gazprom contract was controversial, in part because of fears that the beauty of the Russian city would be tarnished by the buildingâ€™s proposed height. RMJM defeated five other international architects for the commission to develop proposals for the $600m (â‚¬451m, Â£303m) tower in the historic heart of the city, close to the Bolsheokhtinsky Bridge and Smolny Cathedral.
Tony Kettle, UK managing director of RMJM and lead architect on the project, said: â€œThere 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.
â€œI think that the quality of the towerâ€™s design and its exclusive nature is critical here and we firmly believe that our design truly works for the city. St Petersburg is not the place to create a collection of towers like Manhattan or Parisâ€™ La Defense. We have created something quite unique and timeless, a beautiful landmark for the city which will also set new standards for energy conservation and sustainability. Gazprom is one of the worldâ€™s most important energy companies and it is fitting that in a city of spires, this new spire should symbolise the importance of energy.â€
RMJM said the the inspiration for its design came from the concept of energy in water â€“ the site is located on the cityâ€™s main waterway, the River Neva. The five-sided tower twists as it rises.
RMJMâ€™s proposal for the headquarters development also features a unique environmental strategy, which acts as a low-energy â€œfur coatâ€. It said the double-layered skin of the tower would allow the maximisation of daylight and the minimisation of heat loss in the extreme St Petersburg environment.
The announcement came on the same day that RMJM opened its first office in Moscow, taking the firmâ€™s total number of offices across the world to 11.
The practice was awarded the 46-storey Moscow City Palace Tower contract earlier this year as well as leisure, residential and commercial projects across Russia.
The Scotsman wrote:RMJM says its Gazprom design 'understands St Petersburg'
RMJM, the Edinburgh firm of architects behind the Scottish Parliament, says its spiralling glass tower design for the massive new Gazprom headquarters "understands St Petersburg", invokes the city's history and is efficient.
Seven of the world's leading architecture firms short-listed for the project, including RMJM, unveiled their designs at an exhibition in St Petersburg last week, ahead of a decision expected on 1 December.
The brief was to design a tower about 300 metres tall for the former state-owned energy company's new headquarters, to be built on the Neva River, opposite the Smolny Cathedral, by 2012.
Tony Kettle, UK managing director for RMJM, said the 75-floor design tapered to a point like one of the historic centre's many spires.
"St Petersburg is the city of spires. Whenever there's a building that's celebrated, it's with a gold object such as a spire ... this [design] touches the sky in the way one of the historical spires may have."
The five-sided glass building is designed to let as much sunlight in as possible, while a "fur coat", a double-skin of glass with an air cavity, is designed to trap heat, improving energy efficiency.
The project has proved controversial in a city centre that is on UNESCO's list of protected monuments.
Other short-listed designers include Daniel Libeskind, who designed New York's Freedom Tower, the replacement for the World Trade Center.
An online poll on Gazprom's website gives RMJM a small lead. While the poll is unofficial, Kettle said he hoped the poll showed that RMJM "understands St Petersburg better than some of the others".
[quote]SHOWS: (CEEF) ST.PETERSBURG, RUSSIA (RECENT) (REUTERS - ACCESS ALL)
1. PALACE SQUARE
2. ADMIRALTY ARCH
3. EXTERIOR OF ST.PETERSBURG'S ACADEMY OF ARTS
4. EXHIBIT SIGN OUTSIDE ACADEMY BUILDING READING "GAZPROM CITY''
(CEEF) ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA (NOVEMBER 21, 2006) (REUTERS - ACCESS
5. GAZPROM CITY PROTESTERS INSIDE MAIN ENTRANCE HALL OF ACADEMY OF ARTS
BUILDING/ FIVE PROTESTERS DRESSED UP AS TOWERS OF THE SMOLNY CATHEDRAL NEXT TO
WHICH THE GAZPROM TOWER IS PLANNED TO BE LOCATED - PROTESTERS WEARING GAS
6. PROTESTERS DRESSED AS SMOLNY CATHEDRAL WEARING GAS MASKS
7. PROTESTERS HOLDING SIGNS THAT SAY: "DANGER: GAS'' AND "GAS
9. PROTESTERS GATHERED
10. VARIOUS OF PROTESTERS GOING UP THE STAIRS/ WOMAN DRESSED AS RUSSIAN
EMPRESS CATHERINE THE GREAT IN 18TH CENTURY DRESS LEADING THEM
11. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) WOMAN PRETENDING TO BE "GAZPROM CITY"
"Dear friends, the historical centre of St. Petersburg is very
beautiful. And I hope that you give me a chance to grow up and to also become
beautiful. Please enter dear friends.''
12. WOMAN DRESSED AS CATHERINE THE GREAT ON PLATFORM SHOES ENTERING THE
GAZPROM CITY EXHIBIT
13. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) YULIY RYBAKOV, AUTHOR, A FIGURE IN RUSSIA'S
DEMOCRATIC OPPOSITION AND HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST, SAYING:
"Our city is being attacked]
I am not so sure that this tower should be built in the centre of this particularly fine histoical city;