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Culture news, 13.07.2007 12:58

UNESCO Slams Skyscraper Plans

gazprom_tower By Evgenia Ivanova

Staff Writer

The United Nations’ culture and heritage body UNESCO has asked City Hall to stop any development associated with the building of a skyscraper for energy giant Gazprom until after a new evaluation is made about possible damage to historic monuments in St. Petersburg, the Rosbalt news agency has reported.

The center of St. Petersburg is listed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO.

“[UNESCO’s world heritage committee] strongly urges the State Party, at the earliest opportunity, to provide a detailed report on the Gazprom tower development project in order for the World Heritage Committee to evaluate the impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property,” the committee’s draft report, published on the agency’s website on Tuesday, reads.

The document summarizes decisions of the 31st session of the World Heritage Committee that ended in Christchurch, New Zealand on July 2.

“[The UNESCO committee] requests the State Party to stop any development [associated with the Gazprom tower], including the issuing of building permits, until all relevant materials have been reviewed and its impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of the World Heritage property has been fully assessed,” the document continues.

However, Gazprom Neft, the Gazprom subsidiary in St. Petersburg, released a statement on June 21 saying the presentation of the project to the St. Petersburg Planning Council in June “was concluding a series of the discussions in relation to the project.”

In a news release posted on Gazprom Neft’s website, Russia’s richest company claims that “[the tower] will become the dominant feature of modern St. Petersburg” and that it “will” be built in the city in the Krasnogvardeysky district.

Although the majority of the city’s Planning Council members severely criticized the plan to erect a skyscraper in the district, Gazprom nevertheless said that “the concept of development of Okhta-Center [as the development has been dubbed] was approved by the Planning Council.”

Later, the press release noted that the skyscraper idea has “provoked a lively discussion” on the council, but underplayed its objections to the tower.

“Some members of the Planning Council raised doubts regarding the viability of the presented characteristics of the object,” Gazprom’s statement reads.

UNESCO warns that non-compliance with their request might lead to St. Petersburg’s inclusion on a “World Heritage in Danger” list.

But Philip Nikandrov, the St. Petersburg head of RMJM London Limited, the architectural company behind the skyscraper’s design, said UNESCO “is not the law” for his company.

“UNESCO doesn’t represent a body able to issue orders to St. Petersburg — the city has to choose its own destiny by itself,” Nikandrov told the St. Petersburg Times earlier this year in a telephone interview.

Zhivoi Gorod, a movement to preserve the historic center of St. Petersburg, meanwhile said it was doing everything it could to ensure its efforts against Gazprom “haven’t been made in vain.”

The group claims to have collected 10,821 signatures in a petition against the project.

A copy of the document was sent to Governor Valentina Matviyenko on Monday, Zhivoi Gorod said in a press release.

News source:

(c) 2000