Europe’s tallest tower is one step closer to construction after Dubai-based Arabtec, which built the world’s tallest building in Dubai, signed a $US123.3 million deal to provide enabling works on the controversial Lakhta Centre in Russia.
In a filing made to the Dubai Financial Market on Monday, the UAE’s largest building firm says it will provide the works on the 85-storey building in the Russian port city of St Petersburg.
The main building of the Lakhta Centre (otherwise known as Gazprom Tower) will reach 463 metres in height. In addition to becoming the new head office of Russian oil giant Gazprom, it will feature a scientific and education complex, sport and leisure facilities and an outdoor amphitheatre.
Construction of the new tower is expected to be completed in 2018.
The project, however, has been surrounded by controversy. Built over marshland by Tsar Peter the Great using slave labour in the early 18th century, the entire city of St Petersburg is considered to be a significant European cultural centre, with the historic core of the city being designated a World Heritage Site in 1991.
The new tower will be situated on the northwestern edge of the city near the Gulf of Finland, an area which is largely undeveloped and is not deemed overly significant in terms of cultural value in and of itself. There are fears, however, that the tower, which local residents complain will be visible from almost any point in the city, will damage much of the St Petersburg’s cultural value.
There are even fears that the tower may breach heritage design rules imposed by United Nations cultural body UNESCO.
In 2010, Gazprom was forced to abandoned plans for a smaller, 403-metre building amid intense opposition from local preservation groups and threats by UNESCO to revoke heritage listing for the city’s historic centre.