Herzog & de Meuron Basel Ltd.
4056 Basel, Switzerland
Phone: +41 61 385 5757
St. Petersburg, Russia
Our project for Gazprom City does not propose a final, perfected design for a high-rise building; it neither provides, nor does it intend to provide a new typology for a high-rise building for the simple reason that the dialogue with the client did not furnish insight into the Company’s current and future work culture. Moreover, it did not make sense to us to impose a psychologically motivated architecture on the client or to offer a symbolic or otherwise disguised vocabulary of signs.
Our Gazprom project is essentially an urban statement for a specific location in the city of St. Petersburg with its almost mythical origins at the confluence of the Neva and Okhta rivers. This was once the site of a Swedish fortress that was later demolished to make room for a Russian bastion. Just as St. Peter and Paul Cathedral and the Admiralty complement each other on either side of the Neva (fig.), we envisioned the new Gazprom City and the Smolny establishing an urban and spatial pendant to St. Petersburg (fig. map). This was the urban maxim underlying all of our architectural efforts in working out the Gazprom master plan. We were well aware, from the start, of the potentially contradictory relationship between these fragile, urban ideas, on one hand, and Gazprom’s spatial needs, on the other. All of our initial attempts to pack the vast, required floor area of 300,000 mÂÂÂ² into one single vertical volume failed (fig.). The shape, the proportions, the sheer mass of the building literally smothered the urban relationship with other buildings in the historic city. Not until we had reduced the height of the tower itself by one third and incorporated the remaining floor space in a flatter section of the master plan, were we able to alleviate the problem. The outcome was the elegant, sweeping shape that we had always targeted. As work on the tower progressed, the curves of the building were designed to face selected topographical locations in St. Petersburg and Leningrad. These geometric structures became special places accessible to the public, so that people not involved in Gazprom could also use and inhabit the tower. In our office, we called the project “The Inhabited Needle”, which later became its official title.
It is a title that refers to the distinctive building typologies of St. Petersburg, a city of flat buildings and vast unobstructed skies, allowing the extraordinarily appealing light of the low-lying sun to cast its spell over the entire city. The great achievement of the Baroque architects of St. Peter and Paul, or of the Admiralty, does not simply lie in the successful articulation of a liturgical brief or in the innovative application of a Baroque vocabulary, but rather in developing such exquisitely delicate church spires that are like needles piercing the limpid skies of St. Petersburg.
Herzog & de Meuron, 2007
Translation by Catherine Schelbert
“Gazprom-City of Architecture Competition.” In: “Concept.” Vol. No. 94, Korea, 02.2007. pp. 58-83.