Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Another huge erection!

One yesterday, another today! What a busy week for the Republic!

Today's priapic pest is the threat to the St Petersburg World Heritage Site, the RMJM 'Gazprom' Tower. Like Dresden before it, which this summer had its World Heritage Site status removed, this is currently on the World Heritage In Danger list: ,

Sadly, those responsible for these atrocities don't care, they can run away with the cash and that's all that counts. UNESCO is in the horns (sorry, must stop the puns) of a dilemma; does it allow development which will ultimately destroy that which should be protected, the Outstanding Universal Value of individual sites, thus allowing that to set a precedent for more, or does it use the ultimate sanction, and remove sites from inscription, and allow the site to be destroyed anyhow?

Personally I think we should be sending in a gunboat, but the World Heritage Committee hasn't that option.

Well peeps, I like the cut of the jibs of those in the city who aren't taking this lying down.

As the report in AJ says:

Police and protesters clash over RMJM's Gazprom tower
1 September, 2009 By Richard Waite

Attempts by Russian energy giant Gazprom to build a 394m-tall UK-designed skyscraper in St Petersburg are being fought every inch of the way by protesters in the city

St. Petersburg residents on Tuesday (01.09.09) clashed with police and OAO Gazprom security guards during a public hearing over the plan to erect the tallest skyscraper in Europe. Around 12 people who attended Tuesday’s meeting were removed, as calls of ‘shame on Gazprom’ rung in the air.

The Okhta Center is the work of Scottish architects RMJM and is intended to house the headquarters of Gazprom Neft, a Gazprom subsidiary.

The Okhta Public and Business Centre, the Gazprom company heading the development, says it is an ‘architectural gem’
(Well, they would, wouldn't they?) that will give the city a modern look. However, the UN’s educational, scientific and cultural organisation claims that the centre, also known as the Gazprom Tower, would defile the city’s historic skyline.

See for yourself here:

and here:

But protesters filed a lawsuit asking the court to cancel the public hearing because it would be ‘illegal’ and that the towers would be sited too close to the 18th century Smolny Cathedral. It is not the first time objectors have run into trouble with the police over the proposed 67-storey skyscraper. In January last year ‘two activists’ were arrested after 300 protesters started a rally on the site earmarked for the tower.

(Interesting read, that... was Bandarin telling porkies? Or is Kettle speaking with forked tongue?)

Meanwhile, Unesco’s World Heritage Committee has expressed ‘grave concern’ about the building and has asked that the project be suspended.

Responding to the news, RMJM released this statement: ‘The City of St Petersburg is reviewing its rules and regulations for tall buildings.
‘This City Council Meeting was the first step towards amending its planning restrictions to allow for buildings which are over 100m in height. RMJM is assisting the City Council in going through the due process in support of the proposed amendment.’
(In other words, we are moving the goalposts in order to get this monster built, and pave the way for others. It's ££££££ speaking!)

Click here to read RMJM’s group design director Tony Kettle’s justification for the proposed skyscraper :

Hmmm. Wrong about so much, yet trust me I'm an architect?

Building Design runs the story also:

Clashes over RMJM's Gazprom tower
2 September, 2009
By Anna Winston

A public meeting to discuss RMJM’s proposal for a 400m tower in St Petersburg descended into violence on Tuesday, with protesters being forcibly removed by security guards working for the developer, Russian gas giant Gazprom.

The St Petersburg meeting is part of RMJM and Gazprom’s quest to change the city’s zoning laws which do not allow buildings taller than 48m.

The clash between police, guards and protesters prompted chants of “shame on Gazprom”, according to a Bloomberg report. One protest or, Gennady Turetsky, said: “You’re creating an atmosphere of civil war here in St. Petersburg. Look at all these security measures, all the people being taken away.”

Last week, UNESCO issued a new warning that St Petersburg could face losing its world heritage status if the tower, officially called the Okhta Centre Tower but known as the Gazprom Tower, goes ahead.

In a statement published on its website, UNESCO repeated earlier concerns for the future of the entire heritage site but singled out the tower for additional comment.

“The World Heritage Committee expresses its grave concern that the proposed Okhta Centre Tower could affect the Outstanding Universal Value of the property,” it said.

UNESCO has requested that all work be suspended on the project and that the design be modified.

In a statement, RMJM said: "The City of St Petersburg is reviewing its rules and regulations for tall buildings. This City Council Meeting was the first step towards amending its planning restrictions to allow for buildings which are over 100m in height. RMJM is assisting the City Council in going through the due process in support of the proposal for amendment."

The tower, which is to be the headquarters for Gazprom and will include a concert hall, museum, hotel and business centre, has attracted controversy since RMJM won the commission in 2006.

RMJM beat Jean Nouvel, Massimiliano Fuksas, Rem Koolhaas and Daniel Libeksind in a surprise victory after an international competition which saw star judges Norman Foster, Rafel Vinoly and Kisho Kurokawa walk off the jury.

In 2007, St Petersburg residents and preservationists staged a protest against RMJM’s proposed design. And earlier this year the St Petersburg city government, which had committed to financing 49% of the scheme, announced it would no longer contribute to the project which could cost up to $3 billion. Gazprom has now pledged to fund the entire project itself.
Read more:

Strong words from UNESCO (really, this is as bad as it gets):

33COM 7B.118 - Historic Centre of Saint Petersburg and Related Groups of Monuments (Russian Federation) (C 540)
Decision Text

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-08/33.COM/7B.Add,

2. Recalling Decision 32COM 7B.105, adopted at its 32nd session (Quebec City, 2008),

3. Regrets that the State Party did not provide a state of conservation report, or a draft Statement of Outstanding Universal Value;

4. Notes with concern, that the maps provided by the State Party define boundaries that include a significantly smaller area than that inscribed, and encourages the State Party to submit formally a significant boundary modification (according to Paragraph 165 of the Operational Guidelines) to allow the Committee to consider this issue;

5. Also notes with concern that the buffer zone proposed does not extend to encompass the landscape setting of the property and in particular the panorama along the Neva River, and requests the State Party to reconsider this buffer zone and submit it formally to the World Heritage Centre;

6. Reiterates its request to the State Party to develop, in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS, a draft Statement of Outstanding Universal Value, for examination by the World Heritage Committee;

7. Expresses again its grave concern that the proposed "Ohkta Centre Tower" could affect the Outstanding Universal Value of the property, and requests the State Party to suspend work on this project and submit modified designs, in accordance with federal legislation and accompanied by an independent environmental impact assessment;

8. Also expresses its grave concern about the continuous lack of a leading management system and defined mechanisms of coordination for the management of the property;

9. Also requests the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission to the Historic Centre of Saint Petersburg and Related Groups of Monuments to assess the state of conservation of the property;

10. Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2010, a state of conservation report for the property that addresses the above points for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session in 2010, with a view to consider, in the absence of substantial progress, to inscribe the Historic Centre of Saint Petersburg and related Groups of Monuments (Russian Federation) on the List of the World Heritage in Danger at its 34th session 2010.

This, and all associated documents, can be read here:

Russian Federation
Date of Inscription: 1990Criteria:
(i)(ii)(iv)(vi)St. Petersburg regionN59 57 00 E30 19 06Ref: 540

Brief Description

The 'Venice of the North', with its numerous canals and more than 400 bridges, is the result of a vast urban project begun in 1703 under Peter the Great. Later known as Leningrad (in the former USSR), the city is closely associated with the October Revolution. Its architectural heritage reconciles the very different Baroque and pure neoclassical styles, as can be seen in the Admiralty, the Winter Palace, the Marble Palace and the Hermitage.

Lest we forget: World Heritage Site Status is not thrust opon places, it is applied for and has to be justified by the countries concerned, which agree to protect, for all of humanity, the Outstanding Universal Value of the site.

That doesn't mean no development in urban centres, but it does mean that any development should protect the OUV, the authenticity and integrity of a site, and that policies and plans should be in place to protect and conserve.

And what's the problem? Greed really. No matter how many fine words it's all dressed up in, no matter how many weasel words are spoken, it's just plain unadulterated greed.

The second joint publication by SAVE Europe's Heritage and the Moscow Architectural Preservation Society, while mainly about Moscow, has a chapter on the dire things happening to St Petersburg's historic architecture also:

(click to enlarge)

The study also includes a chapter on St. Petersburg, where more than one hundred buildings have been destroyed over the last six years, even as many were on official state "protected" lists.

An informative article here by one of the authors:

Edmund Harris is a trustee of the Moscow Architectural Preservation Society (MAPS) and editor of the new, revised edition of "Moscow Heritage At Crisis Point," a joint report by MAPS and SAVE Britain's Heritage on the crisis facing the historic heritage of Moscow and St Petersburg. The views expressed in this commentary are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of RFE/RL

...Gazprom's plans to build the 396-meter Okhta Center opposite St Petersburg's Smolny Convent produced more column inches in the press than any other construction project. But while that effort is currently hamstrung by financial constraints, work has continued on numerous other destructive and insensitive schemes. The panorama of the headland of Vasilyevsky Island -- with its 19th-century rostral columns and stock exchange, and the elegant 18th-century Kunstkamera -- has already been blighted by the Oil and Commodities Exchange (67 meters) and the Finansist residential tower (65 meters) that now rear up in the background. And that is not the only part of Petersburg's skyline to have been wrecked...

There is a great deal more information and pictures here:

Here is a direct link to the 2009 updated, expanded edition, of Moscow Heritage at Crisis Point, including the St Petersburg chapter, online as a PDF: (warning large file, takes a while to download)

The print verson will be available soon from :

Moscow Heritage at Crisis Report - 2nd Edition (2009)£18.00 (£18.00 Friends Price)
Following up from the 2007 report this new edition brings our attention back to the continued threat to Moscow’s architectural heritage. This latest bilingual report from SAVE Europe’s Heritage and MAPS (Moscow Architectural Preservation Society), with support from DoCoMoMo International, lists the latest loses, the current threats and proposals to help protect Moscow’s historic buildings. This new edition, which displays 200 pictures across 128 pages, also includes information about threats to St Petersburg.

This has been launched in Russia but will not be launched in Britain until late September - copies will be available to order from the SAVE office in October. We ask for a voluntary donation of £18

Edmund Harris is a Cambridge-trained Russianist who has been a Moscow resident since 2003. He is a trustee of MAPS and was involved in setting up the organisation in 2004 with Clementine Cecil and Kevin O'Flynn.

Clementine Cecil is a journalist and campaigner for the preservation of built heritage. She lived in Moscow from 2001 to 2005. Cecil is a co-founder and trustee of MAPS. She is also involved in a project to conserve churches in Tver region with the Paul Khlebnikov Foundation.

Anna Bronovitskaya is an architectural historian, associate professor at the Moscow Architecture Institute, and an editor of 'Project Russia' and 'Project International' magazines.

Other authors of the report include specialists such as Marcus Binney, President and founder of SAVE (UK);

Adam Wilkinson, former secretary of SAVE and now Director of Edinburgh World Heritage Site (UK);

Calder Loth, Senior Architectural Historian of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources (USA);

Nataliya Dushkina, Professor of City Planning at the Moscow Architecture Institute;

Nataliya Bronovitskaya, art historian;

Nataliya Samover, historian and journalist;

Elena Minchyonok, Saint-Petersburg journalist, and writer;

Moscow historian Rustam Rakhmatullin.

So get that order in now!



See comments, and here's that link from St Petersburg live:

Thought provoking reading.

See also blogs: (Pictures also)


avvakum said...

Thanks for your lovely post. It's encouraging to know there are folks out there in the wider world who are not indifferent to the disaster unfolding in Saint Petersburg.

For the bigger picture you and your readers might want to check out this recent article by people at ground zero:

Nemesis said...

It's wonderful to know this was read where somone would appreciate it!

But it's happening everywhere, this destruction. Check out the Liverpool blog in my linked list, that's another WHS spoiled by greed and stupidity. Edinburgh, Bath... UNESCO must despair, but removal from inscription, the final sanction, seems to be what some places are striving for, so nothing is left to fetter their development plans.

Thank you for the link, which I will add to my blog. Interesting.

Do keep us informed of developments, I have no doubt MAPS and SAVE Europe's Heritage will be keen to be updated too.