The design by UK-based international architectural firm RMJM is a 396 metre high twisting, glass needle which echoes the spires across the city of St Petersburg. RMJM beat off five other internationally-renowned architects for the commission to develop proposals for the tower in the historic heart of the city, close to the Bolsheokhtinsky Bridge and Smolny Cathedral but the soaring design created an outcry and opposition even from UNESCO who threatened St. Petersburg's World Heritage site status.
When built, the building will become Europe’s tallest tower and as well as the new headquarters for Russian oil and gas company Gazprom. Dubai-based Arabtec was commissioned a year ago to begin testing of five deep foundation barrettes, extending to 70 meters into the soft ground, to establish their build ability in the site subsoil and their bearing capacity to support the main tower. In 2007 Gazprom Neft awarded the construction management of the project to Britain's Bovis Lend Lease International Ltd.
As a managing company for the community and business complex construction project Bovis Lend Lease will perform such functions as Okhta-Center project administration throughout the whole period of its implementation, budgetary control and project schedule coordination, control of quality and safety of construction works, resource management and compliance with the works contract deadlines.
At present Bovis Lend Lease is engaged in the construction of another five high-rise buildings in Russia.
According to Tony Kettle, RMJM’s group design director, the design team took into consideration St Petersburg’s urban landscape of horizontal buildings broken by singular vertical elements, such as the spires of the Peter and Paul Cathedral.
Kommersant newspaper said that last formal obstacle to the tower had been removed after the state body charged with assessing construction projects in Russia had given its green light to the plan at a meeting on October 7.
It said the state body -- Glavgosekspertiza which answers to the ministry of regional development -- had declined to comment but several sources in the Gazprom unit responsible for the tower had confirmed approval had been received.
The deputy director of the Okhta Centre project, Vladimir Gronsky, also confirmed to Echo Moscow radio that the approval had been received from the commission that the building would not impact the Petersburg cityscape.
Kommersant said that now only intervention at the highest level from the Russian leadership could prevent formal planning permission being given.
The planned construction of the building has already worried UNESCO, which has warned that Saint Petersburg, founded by Peter the Great in 1703, risks being excluded from its world heritage list if the tower is built.
It has also proved massively controversial among Saint Petersburg residents, who cling fiercely to their elegant city's distinctiveness from the urban chaos and breakneck expansion of Moscow.
Local St. Petersburg lawmaker, Sergei Malkov told Echo Moscow that the approval of the tower was "a nonsense for any Petersburger"."The only means left to us are extra-parliamentary, in other words, meetings, protests and pickets. The people will protest not only against the construction but against Saint Petersburg becoming a second Moscow."