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RMJM to continue on Gazprom Tower build

ONE of Scotland's leading architecture firms is celebrating after being told it will continue to be involved in the design of a landmark project in St Petersburg until completion.

TOWERING IMPRESSION: RMJM architect Tony Kettle said that because of its scale, St Petersburg is a big, broad canvas. Picture: Gordon Terris SKY'S THE LIMIT: The tower will have a spire-like quality.
TOWERING IMPRESSION: RMJM architect Tony Kettle said that because of its scale, St Petersburg is a big, broad canvas. Picture: Gordon Terris SKY'S THE LIMIT: The tower will have a spire-like quality.

Edinburgh-based RMJM had initially thought its involvement with the £3 billion Gazprom Tower in the Russian city, which will be one of the 10 tallest buildings in the world, would extend no further than devising the original masterplan and evolving the building concept.But it has now emerged the company will have a hands-on role for the entire four-year project.

Tony Kettle, international design principal at RMJM’s European studio in Edinburgh, said: “We are delighted we will be involved in the design all the way through. The decision speaks volumes of the experience we have built up through working in more than 20 countries worldwide.”

The Gazprom tower, which will also be the tallest in Europe, and its ancillary buildings will transform a 42-acre site at Lakhta, on St Peterburg’s outskirts, seven-and-a-half-miles from the city centre.

With one eye on the potential tourist market, a huge 164ft-high viewing gallery – some 15 storeys in height – will be erected at the top of the building.

RMJM, which with Enric Miralles co-designed the Scottish Parliament building in Edinburgh, had originally won an international design competition in 2006, seeing off rival submissions from such well-known names as the architect Daniel Libeskind.

The chosen site was at Okhta, three-and-three-quarter miles from the city centre, but the plan encountered fierce opposition from environmental protesters, and Unesco, which awarded the city world-heritage status, threatened to withdraw the designation if the tower went ahead.

It is thought the opposition was based on concerns the historic cityscape would be ruined by the steel-and-glass tower.

Mr Kettle said: “Last year the city reviewed its overall master-plan and decided the Okhta site wasn’t right for Gazprom, and proposed several alternative sites. Gazprom has now selected Lakhta.

“This site is still part of the city but what we have done is to re-design 300,000 sq m of additional accommodation, and master-planning to relocate the building in a waterfront site to the west of the city rather than the east.”

The new tower will have 86 floors and stretch to 1516ft. The Renzo Piano-designed Shard, being built in London Bridge Quarter, will be just 1004ft.

“The scale of St Petersburg is a big, broad canvas. Despite its height, when seen from the city centre, the tower will still be a delicate spire amongst other spires in the centre,” said Mr Kettle.

“That is the reason we won the competition, and the reason we are continuing to develop it, and make it more elegant, is because of this spire-like quality.”

The tower will feature a pioneering ‘intelligent’ double outer skin which will minimise heat-loss during the tough Russian winters.

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