Category: St Petersburg.

St Petersburg world heritage status threatened by skyscraper

Authorities in St Petersburg have approved plans for the city’s first skyscraper, a needle-shaped structure that will dwarf its 18th century low-rise skyline and imperil its UNESCO world heritage status.

By Andrew Osborn in Moscow
Published: 2:43PM BST 23 Sep 2009

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Russia’s state natural gas giant Gazprom has won approval to build a gargantuan skyscraper in St. Petersburg Photo: AP

Ignoring a public outcry and warnings from the United Nations cultural body, the authorities gave the green light to the so-called Okhta Centre on Tuesday.

At 1,322 feet, it will be taller than the Eiffel Tower in Paris and be visible from St Petersburg’s historic city centre.

It will be the first skyscraper in Russia’s former imperial capital, which has survived the destruction of the Bolshevik Revolution and Nazi bombing raids to remain one of the world’s most beautiful cities.

The tower is a pet project of Valentina Matvienko, the city’s powerful governor and a close ally of Vladimir Putin, the prime minister.

Designed by a Scottish architectural firm, it will house the headquarters of Gazprom Neft, the oil-producing arm of energy giant Gazprom. The authorities have billed it as a symbol of rising Russian power that will reflect the country’s fabulous oil and gas wealth.

The decision means that UNESCO is certain to place St Petersburg on its list of world heritage sites “in danger,” an intermediate step to stripping it of its prestigious status altogether.

Opponents have started legal action to try to block construction, and it remains unclear whether central government could yet intervene to veto the skyscraper.

City Hall said in a statement explaining its decision that the skyscraper would regenerate a depressed area, create jobs, and trigger new infrastructure development.

Category: St Petersburg
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