Lakhta Center is a multifunctional complex in St. Petersburg with the Gazprom headquarter and public spaces occupying a third of the area. Construction was completed in October 2018, now start work on the arrangement of business and public areas. The opening will take place in about a year, when the complex will be fully prepared to meet guests.
A Sand Castle
"Kvartalny nadziratel" 01.2012
Based on the domains which have been registered in the Internet already the Gazprom tower could have been relocated to Kudrovo or Murino. Why have you chosen Lakhta?
When it was clear that the project would not be implemented on Okhta various proposals appeared to relocate the project and Leningrad region supported the idea. Lakhta was chosen because Lakhta is Petersburg though its outskirts and the objective originally set is to give an impulse to the development of Petersburg, the city where the managers of the investor company were born and lived most of their life.
So everything was decided by the Petersburg-based part of the authorities?
Our company is a vertical structure. Undoubtedly the idea and format were discussed at the top level.
Why did you reject the idea of building on Okhta?
There are a few reasons for that. Speaking objectively the tower on Okhta would change the urban panorama. Perhaps it would not spoil it but in certain directions the skyline would have a new landmark. An active position of an opposition community was not a sole reason for relocating but it had its impact on the decision making. Although in Okhta the business center would be more useful than in Lakhta, it would more efficiently give a stimulus for the development of the adjoining area and a mixed use public and business district could emerge there.
Why cannot the same thing be done but not in the form of a skyscraper? For example, building a decent ensemble is a task which is also complicated and prestigious. It is ensembles which Petersburg has always been famous for. They protested not against a business center, they protested against an unambiguous interpretation of a symbolic building.
A public and business complex with a high-rise landmark would be in line with the spatial layout principles traditional for Petersburg, i.e. individual landmarks surrounded by horizontal buildings. The only thing is that in our case the proportions met the scale of the development of the late 20th century rather than 18-19th centuries. And furthermore there are almost professional opponents who are against everything that such investors as Gazprom are planning to do. We are not going to build a skyscraper in Lakhta but now the opponents ask not to build anything at all at the site! We faced the same active opposition while preparing to build a sports complex in Okhta, in the area of Metallistov prospect.
Was something changed in the design after the project was relocated from the banks of the river Neva to the coast of the Gulf of Finland?
RMJM developed another concept. Whatever paradoxical it might seem, on Okhta there were height restrictions (the tower was not to have been seen from the key points in the center of the city), thus the upper part of the tower was reduced drastically. Now it does not resemble an Indian corn and has a clear spire, almost one third of its height.
Over the last years in Petersburg a few assumptions have been born related to well-known projects of western architects. For example they won the contests but they failed to build anything because of Russian standards and norms.
A construction and investment process in the Russian Federation is not easy indeed. However in our case RMJM took part as an architectural bureau, they designed an image, a project concept. The Proekt documentation is dealt with by Moscow-based company Gorproekt which for example participated in the design of Federation Tower in Moscow. Gazprom will not be indulged. The documentation is accepted only after it has been approved by all the necessary authorities.
But the first norm was violated at once. I mean the height restriction in Lakhta is 27m and you are going to build a skyscraper 500m tall.
According to the Decree of the Committee for Urban Planning and Architecture issued in accordance with the procedure and norms of the valid legislation the height norm for the site shall be up to 500m.
And how long will the tower be there alone? If it is permitted to Gazprom, then why are not other companies such as LSR or LebSpetsSMU entitled to build towers there? And a bunch of skyscrapers will appear there…
Perhaps it is good that a bunch of skyscrapers will appear in Lakhta, is not it? Then developers will give up the center. Why is it bad that a business center will appear in a district? Anyway no tower similar to our tower will appear because they are only few of them around the world!
500m are needed to show that we are ahead of the whole planet?
Originally the idea was to create a symbol and it will be a symbol provided that it is unique including the height parameters.
And what does it symbolize? Power? Ambitions? Growth rates?
It will be a symbol of an efficient company, a powerful economy, innovation and power. Assumption no. 2 who will build a skyscraper if nobody has ever built skyscrapers before? There are available specialists. Seventy years ago high-rise buildings were built in Moscow and they are of a very good quality, they are still one of the most expensive real estate properties. And their weight and loads on the foundations are similar to ours. Modern technologies allow achieving everything faster and cheaper. Worldwide buildings are built under poorer geologic conditions.
Everybody is amused by an image of a skyscraper erected on sand.
Yes, we are going to build a skyscraper at the site which is 30 years old. There was no land there before, it is a reclaimed area. The more it arouses surprise, the more pleasant it is for us. What is located under the building at the depth of 1-2m is not so relevant. The tower will stand on solid Vendian clay which is closer to the surface than on Okhta.
You are not going to have any climatic problems with it, aren’t you?
It is a good question. Taking into account strong winds which frequent the Gulf horizontal loads are the main problems of the designers. At the moment in Novosibirsk the wind tunnel test of the skyscraper model is being conducted with double-checking all mathematic calculations. As it is known high-rise buildings over 100-200m tall can swing within the range of up to one hundreds of its height. Stricter restrictions are fixed in the Russian standards. Swings up to one eighty’s of the height are designed. The stability of the tower core is very important, thousands of people in the offices should feel comfortable.
By discussing the perspectives of the business center in Petersburg, they more and more often propose to choose the way of Paris with its stand-alone office district Defense rather than the way of London where the skyscrapers are everywhere. But the major charm of Defense is that all the transport is hidden underground. Aboveground there is only a pedestrian flyover and under it there is a multi-layer hub, suburban trains, metro, bus station and eight-lane highways. What will be done in Lakhta?
If sometime in future Lakhta will be so densely populated as Defense then all these will definitely appear. Otherwise it cannot operate as a business district. I would not compare the transport infrastructure of Paris with that of Petersburg, in respect of public transport communication our city is 100 years behind. And everything seems impossible if you do not start doing something. After the Western speed diameter is commissioned, Primorsky prospect is expanded up to six lanes, 49th highway is commissioned the transport accessibility of Lakhta will be improved as compared to any other district in the city.
However the roads are built by the city. A road junction next to Novaya Derevnya was planned 34 years ago. And the metro scheme according to which ten lines and a hundred of stations shall exist arouses disappointment and irritation only.
Good urban planning is done professionally. However if the budget of Petersburg in its investment part could be comparable to that of Paris! 70% of the 400bn budget accounts for the maintenance of the urban infrastructure and social payments. When in 2009 the budget was reduced at 30 percent, it meant that no roads would be built. For the city to be developed it should have an absolutely different amount of money to be invested into development. If money is spent more efficiently, a more effective management could bring 10 percent of additional resources which would allow commissioning one metro station one year ahead. The drastic increase of the budget can be achieved only by drawing a very large business which will pay taxes in the local budget. This is what was done by ex-governor Matvienko, she managed to draw Transaero, Sovkomflot, VTB Bank, Gazprom neft, Sibur to the city. And owning to these companies the budget of the city was increased fourfold. There are no other alternatives in Russia for the time being. In order to implement something significant over a short period of time, resources should be generated. It is not so comfortable to run business in Moscow. However companies do not want to leave Moscow for Saint Petersburg because of the lack of business infrastructure in Petersburg. Petersburg office centers are either in low demand or if they are modern and good are occupied at 105% when even unsuitable areas are occupied because growing companies need space to accommodate their employees. Normally business areas solve these problems. If a new department cannot be accommodated in this building, it can be accommodated in the building opposite it. In Petersburg business centers are scattered throughout the whole city. Their areas, 2-3k sqm. But still it is not enough.
An assumption number three: nothing will be built anyway.
We will have built by 2018 by all means. The transport infrastructure facilities will be commissioned two or three years prior to.
How will Lakhta and Olgino change?
As early as in the nearest future the living standards will be improved there. We are completing the design of water supply mains from our site to Lakhta throughout. New collectors and mains will be provided to connect water supply and sewage systems. In the nearest 5-10 years anywhere where there construction is at full swing the cost of land will go up. The sites will be purchased and sold, it is a normal thing.
What will happen to the Yuntolovo Reserve?
Unique nature existed on the coast prior to reclamation. Thousands of migratory fowl found food easily on swamp land. But later on without asking ecologists these sand banks were destroyed, the irreversible happened. And in this situation the tower will not spoil anything. We hope that the creation of green areas will make the situation better and anyway we are the most interested stakeholder. We are going to implement a beautiful modern project and live and work in this area for a long time.