Gazprom’s Tower: Civil Society in the Venice of the North

Alex McGrath (Russian Studies Program, College of William and Mary)

This is the cover of Boris Vishnevsky's book. Published in 2011, it includes all the articles he wrote for the newspaper "Novaya Gazyeta" between 2006 and 2011

For Abstract of the Article in Russian Click Here. Чтобы прочитать краткое изложение статьи по-русски, нажмите кнопкой мышки здесь.

The romantic skyline of Saint Petersburg is in danger. The classic precipices of the city are under threat of being overshadowed: Peter and Paul’s Fortress, Saint Isaacs Cathedral, the Admiralty, Smolny Cathedral[1]. The tallest building in this “Venice of the North” is soon to be a gargantuan, spiraling office building. And it won’t just be the tallest, but FOUR TIMES as tall as the closest competitor. In a city characterized by its 18th-19th century feel and it’s horizontal focus, the tower has the potential to change the style of the city forever and “bring St. Petersburg into the 21st century”, or to simply ruin hundreds of years of careful urban planning. That is, unless the people of Saint Petersburg can come together to prevent the construction of the gas-o-scraper (Vishnevsky “Gazoskreb” 21)[2]. The opposition groups are many: political parties, Russian NGOs, architects, journalists, celebrities, UNESCO. Their adversaries: the city administration and the oil and natural gas behemoth Gazprom. The battle is being waged in the courts, in the media, and in the streets. In a country where western style democracy, characterized by its individual freedoms and competitive politics, has yet to take hold, the debate over the construction of the Gazprom Tower has inspired an enormous outpouring of political involvement at the grassroots level.

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Gazprom’s Tower: Civil Society in the Venice of the North

Alex McGrath (Russian Studies Program, College of William and Mary)

This is the cover of Boris Vishnevsky's book. Published in 2011, it includes all the articles he wrote for the newspaper "Novaya Gazyeta" between 2006 and 2011

For Abstract of the Article in Russian Click Here. Чтобы прочитать краткое изложение статьи по-русски, нажмите кнопкой мышки здесь.

The romantic skyline of Saint Petersburg is in danger. The classic precipices of the city are under threat of being overshadowed: Peter and Paul’s Fortress, Saint Isaacs Cathedral, the Admiralty, Smolny Cathedral[1]. The tallest building in this “Venice of the North” is soon to be a gargantuan, spiraling office building. And it won’t just be the tallest, but FOUR TIMES as tall as the closest competitor. In a city characterized by its 18th-19th century feel and it’s horizontal focus, the tower has the potential to change the style of the city forever and “bring St. Petersburg into the 21st century”, or to simply ruin hundreds of years of careful urban planning. That is, unless the people of Saint Petersburg can come together to prevent the construction of the gas-o-scraper (Vishnevsky “Gazoskreb” 21)[2]. The opposition groups are many: political parties, Russian NGOs, architects, journalists, celebrities, UNESCO. Their adversaries: the city administration and the oil and natural gas behemoth Gazprom. The battle is being waged in the courts, in the media, and in the streets. In a country where western style democracy, characterized by its individual freedoms and competitive politics, has yet to take hold, the debate over the construction of the Gazprom Tower has inspired an enormous outpouring of political involvement at the grassroots level.

[Read more…]

Gazprom’s Tower: Civil Society in the Venice of the North

Alex McGrath (Russian Studies Program, College of William and Mary)

This is the cover of Boris Vishnevsky's book. Published in 2011, it includes all the articles he wrote for the newspaper "Novaya Gazyeta" between 2006 and 2011

For Abstract of the Article in Russian Click Here. Чтобы прочитать краткое изложение статьи по-русски, нажмите кнопкой мышки здесь.

The romantic skyline of Saint Petersburg is in danger. The classic precipices of the city are under threat of being overshadowed: Peter and Paul’s Fortress, Saint Isaacs Cathedral, the Admiralty, Smolny Cathedral[1]. The tallest building in this “Venice of the North” is soon to be a gargantuan, spiraling office building. And it won’t just be the tallest, but FOUR TIMES as tall as the closest competitor. In a city characterized by its 18th-19th century feel and it’s horizontal focus, the tower has the potential to change the style of the city forever and “bring St. Petersburg into the 21st century”, or to simply ruin hundreds of years of careful urban planning. That is, unless the people of Saint Petersburg can come together to prevent the construction of the gas-o-scraper (Vishnevsky “Gazoskreb” 21)[2]. The opposition groups are many: political parties, Russian NGOs, architects, journalists, celebrities, UNESCO. Their adversaries: the city administration and the oil and natural gas behemoth Gazprom. The battle is being waged in the courts, in the media, and in the streets. In a country where western style democracy, characterized by its individual freedoms and competitive politics, has yet to take hold, the debate over the construction of the Gazprom Tower has inspired an enormous outpouring of political involvement at the grassroots level.

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Works Cited: Gazprom Tower (McGrath)

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Adelaja, Taj. “Gazprom’s huge Okhta Centre could damage St Petersburg’s World Heritage status.” Rossiyskaya Gazeta . http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sponsored/russianow/features/8093177/Gazproms-huge-Okhta-Centre-could-damage-St-Petersburgs-World-Heritage-status.html.

Afanasyeva, Svetlana. Personal interview. 19 July 2011.

Berman, Marshall. All That is Solid Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity. New York: Penguin Books, 1982. Print.

Byggnader. N.p., 21 May 2010. Web. 26 July 2011. <http://byggnader.wordpress.com/category/ryssland/st-petersburg/okhta-center-tower/>.

Daianov, Rafael M. Personal interview. 5 July 2011.

Fomitchev, Mihail. “Matviyenko Take Russian upper house speaker post.” RIA Novosti 21 Sept. 2011 [Russia] . Web. 4 Oct. 2011. <http://en.rian.ru/russia/20110921/167006509.html>.

Klimova, T. “Lakhta Will Be developed.” Delovoy Petersburg. http://www.gazprom-center.com/en/articles/?id=347.

Kosar, Sophia. “The Marine Facade and the Petersburg Myth in Post-Soviet Russia.” William and Mary in St. Petersburg. College of William and Mary, 25 Sept. 2011. Web. 2 Oct. 2011. <http://petersburg.blogs.wm.edu/2011/09/22/the-marine-facade-and-the-petersburg-myth-in-post-soviet-russia/>.

“Medvedev supports UNESCO stance on halting St. Petersburg tower construction.” RIA Novosti, May 21, 2010. http://en.rian.ru/russia/20100521/159100885.html.

O’Flynn, Kevin. “Gazprom Skyscraper Debate Sees Rare Rift In Russian Elite.” Radio Free Europe, October 24, 2009. http://www.rferl.org/content/Gazprom_Skyscraper_Debate_Sees_Rare_Rift_in_Russian_Elite/1860038.html.

Охта центр. “Общественно-деловой район “Охта центр”: Комплексный подход к развитию территорий”  PROPER CITATION

Reznik, Maxim. Personal interview. 14 July 2011.

Russian Chess Legend Kasparov to Establish United Civil Front“. MOSNEWS.com. May 18, 2005. http://www.mosnews.com/news/2005/05/18/kasparovfront.shtml.

RMJM. “The Impossible is Possible.” Booklet outlining the design concept published by the architectural company contracted to build the complex.

Stolyarova, Galina. “Matvienko Reaches Out To Living City Activist.” The St. Petersburg Times, November 16, 2010. http://www.sptimes.ru/index.php?action_id=2&story_id=32938.

Watson, William. Paris Universal Exposition: Civil Engineering, Public Works, and Architecture (Washington: Government Printing office, 1892), 833.

World News – Russian opinion. “”Living City”: “Lakhta Center” – is happy to announce .” http://mysouth.su/2011/03/quot-living-city-quot-quot-lakhta-center-quot-is-happy-to-announce/.

Yurchak, Alexei. “Aesthetic Politics in Saint Petersburg: Skyline at the Heart of Political Opposition.” National Council for Eurasian. http://www.ucis.pitt.edu/nceeer/2011_824-15_Yurchak.pdf

Vishnevsky, Boris. Personal interview. 22 July 2011.

—. “Gazoskreb.  300-metrovoe zdanie “Gazprom-siti” mozhet izurodovat’ Peterburg uzhe k 2010 godu.”  Bashne—Net! Peterburg protiv “Gazoskreba.” (Tower – No! Petersburg against the “Gazoscryoba”). Saint Petersburg, Russia: Poliarnaia zvezda, 2011. 21-24. Print.

Zabirokhin, Peter B. Personal interview. 11 July 2011.

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Алекс МакГрат/Башня Газпрома: Гражданское общество в Северной Венеции (Абстракт)

Гражданское общество в Петербурге ещё живо.  И лучшее подтверждение этому публичная дискуссия вокруг проекта Башня Газпрома, самого высокого здания Европы, которое правительство города и Газпром хотят построить в северной столице.  До 2010 года 400-метровая башня должна была встать прямо за Смольным собором и сделать игрушечными все вертикальные доминанты города, прежде всего, шпили Адмиралтейства и Петропавловского собора.  Моя статья рассматривает аргументы за и против строительства Башни, выдвинутые многочисленными участниками этой дискуссии.

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