Lakhta Center – a large scale project of the construction of a modern business area in the north-west of Saint Petersburg. Opening in 2018.
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Up High: Lakhta Center
One year from now North Saint Petersburg is going to get a new high rise complex called Lakhta Center: it is being built by the Gazprom group and its tower is going to stand 462 meters tall. However, people started talking about it a long time before construction had even begun, namely, as soon as the height of the future building was announced, as it was supposed to be the tallest building in Europe. Its creators promise that the new complex will not just be one huge office block, but will instead become a major cultural element of the city. We got hold of Lakhta Center’s Director General Elena Ilyukhina to ask her about the new building, its character, architecture and mission.
First and foremost, the Lakhta Center is intended as a Gazprom office. But there is more to it than that. What else other than offices do you plan for it to house?
In addition to offices, the plan is for a large portion of the new building to be given over to public spaces. It is going to feature an observation deck, several restaurants, a science and education centre for kids, a planetarium, an open amphitheatre, a transformable hall to host any kind of event you can think of. We are creating a completely new kind of environment that will offer everything and anything people may need: modern education, art projects, memorable events, conceptual art objects, in other words, a lot more than a set of additional services that come with office space. We want to create an environment where anyone can find something for themselves, whether they are a high school student, a tourist, a pensioner, an office clerk on a weekday or at weekends. And it is this socially significant function that is the main goal and mission of the project. Public spaces are going to occupy roughly a third of the floor area but in terms of impact, we expect them to account for about 70% of the impact the complex will have on public life.
The Lakhta Center was conceived of as a promising tourist attraction. For example, it is going to feature the highest observation deck in Europe.
The height of the observation deck is not self-important. Surely, somebody will build an observation deck even higher tomorrow and beat us in that. What is more important is to create a conceptual space that people will remember forever after visiting it. In our city, where the weather is often cloudy, the height of the observation deck means that a lot of the time people will find themselves above the clouds and all they will get to see will be the sky and the sun, just like when a plane is taking off. Other times the deck will be floating between several layers of clouds... You will agree this will be quite an experience. But we are not going to limit ourselves to observing the natural phenomena. We are currently thinking of what else to put there so people will have reason to go up to the deck in any weather. We want to keep it secret for now, let it be a surprise for our guests. The architecture itself is going to be a draw for tourists as well. Including the Lakhta Center in waterway excursions will offer tourists new views of the modern Saint Petersburg. The planetarium, the science centre and the events program will definitely add variety and novelty to the traditional tourist routes around the city both each on its own and together.
In terms of architecture, engineering and design, the Lakhta Center is a twisted skyscraper with glass facades, featuring start-of-the-art energy conservation technologies. What are we to expect from its contents?
Well, we'd rather future guests of the Lakhta Center form their own impressions and, on our part, we are just going to try and meet their expectations. Everything is going to be modern and even futuristic. That is the main principle that the environment will be organized on in our project. Everything can be anything here: the atrium gallery can double as an exhibition hall, the Gulf of Finland can serve as the scene in front of the amphitheatre, the square in front of the building can be used as an open-air movie theatre, science and art will come together while technology will measure the degree of happiness...
Polycentrism has been a key urban development trend in the past decade. The Lakhta Center is located at a significant distance from the historical centre of Saint Petersburg and is naturally going to become a new centre of gravity and the new dominant of the new Saint Petersburg. How is the complex going to be integrated with the existing urban environment? How do you believe it is going to affect the development of the city?
Positive change in every aspect of urban development is the main goal of the project. We are hoping for a kind of a viral effect here. The new aesthetic environment that focuses on people and aims to help them self-improve is expected to kick off development in the adjacent territories, construction of new infrastructure, appearance of new tourist routes and modern services. The city's transport flows will become more balanced. The new standards set by this project will affect future urban development projects as well.
The tallest building in Europe is being constructed in an area where there is no land deficit. So this clearly is not a necessity but rather a kind of a symbol. What does this project symbolize?
The architecture of the Lakhta Center really is symbolic and can be interpreted in a number of ways; it symbolizes a new impulse, a breakthrough in development whose scale is supposed to match the new century and the new millennium. At the same time, the proportions of the new building have been designed to be in perfect harmony with the human being and follow the golden ratio principle. If you look at the plan of the building you will see a pentacle. And that symbolizes the cosmos, the human being and has a number of other meanings that different people are going to see in it as well. And that is the main idea of the project, to give everyone the opportunity to find their own way towards self-improvement and development.