After much wrangling, the Russian energy company Gazprom has finally been given the go-ahead to build a huge skyscraper in St. Petersburg
for its new headquarters.
The press service for Gazprom subsidiary Okhta said late on August 20 that the final building permits had been obtained and construction was expected to start before the end of the year.
The announcement seems to have finally brought an end to a long-running saga
The project was first unveiled in 2006 but has since been dogged by controversy
amid concerns that it would ruin the famous skyline of Russia's "northern capital" on the Niva River.
The UN's cultural organization, UNESCO, even wrote to St. Petersburg authorities warning that the proposed skyscraper could endanger the city's place on its World Heritage List.
Some civil activists in St. Petersburg also objected to Gazprom's decision to construct such a monumental building, believing that there were sinister motives behind the state-owned energy giant's plans.
Literary critic Samuil Lurye told RFE/RL’s Russian Service
in 2010 that he thought the plan to erect the skyscraper in the city’s historical center was driven by the Kremlin’s desire to "[humiliate] the city, the intelligentsia, and show that [the authorities] could do whatever they wanted."
Ultimately, however, Gazprom bowed to the pressure and agreed to change the site of the project to another area of St. Petersburg, thus paving the way for its approval.
Nonetheless, the building should still be based on the initial design, although it will be considerably taller
than originally planned.
It should now rise to a height of 426 meters as opposed to the first proposed structure, which was supposed to stand at 396 meters.
The building is expected to cost around $3 billion and construction is due to be completed by 2018.
PHOTO GALLERY: Gazprom's Skyscraping Giant
The project's designers have described the proposed new building as "a highly sustainable concept," which includes an "intelligent" double outer skin to minimise heat loss in the freezing Russian winters.
In order to win approval for the project, Gazprom had to change the original construction site to another area of St. Petersburg amid fears that it would ruin the city's historical skyline.
The new location for Gazprom's headquarters is a 17-hectare brownfield site on the edge of St Petersburg, formerly used for the industrial storage of sand.
The new building should rise to a height of 426 meters and comprise 330,000 square meters of internal space.
The giant building is expected to cost $3 billion.
The project is due to be completed by 2018.