Gazprom, the Russian oil company, has just secured final approval to build a new, 77-story headquarters right in the heart of St. Petersburg. And no one, it seems, is happy about that.
The sharpest criticism so far is that the tower, designed by RMJM, has exactly no relation to the famously beautiful, low-slung city around it. (The city's current tallest building, the Peter and Paul Cathedral, is just 400 feet high.) According to Time, the U.N. has already said that the tower might threaten central St Petersburg's designation as a World Heritage site. A reported 66% of city residents oppose the plan.
But none of that opposition compares to the looming power of Gazprom—this was, after all, the company which Demetry Medvevev, the country's current prime minister, chaired for seven years. And it is also by far the wealthiest company in Russia.
Some supporters of the building have said that it will be an architectural masterpiece, citing the claims that it will be not only Europe's tallest building, but also its greenest, utilizing a slew of technologies. These include a glass skin that will create an air-filled envelope for the building's facade—insulating it, and providing natural ventilation.
But even if all that comes true, the tower will still be an embarrassment—and for reasons unrelated to how sits in with its surroundings.
Now, I'll grant that its better to build green than not. But the greenest move of all is to reuse and retrofit existing building stock. A new tower such as this consumes massive amounts of energy, simply by being built.
But most importantly, what will it mean, if Europe's greenest tower also happens to be owned by a state-sanctioned oil monopoly?
If the low-carbon push embraced by the rest of Europe eventually comes to nothing, it will already have its beacon—a shining, unmissible greenwash, staring west, casting 1000-foot shadows in every direction.
Images via Inhabitat