The Space Race

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Crystal Island Proposal, Moscow — Image: Foster + Partners

It seems that the old Russian-American space race has taken a new form. While I was off on Christmas break the office of Lord Norman Foster unveiled the design for a new mixed use mega-structure to be built in Moscow that will be the largest — not tallest, largest — building in the world, with four times the interior space of the Pentagon. Then this morning Foster’s office announced that the project — virtually a miniature city, with apartments for 30,000 people, offices, a sports complex, shopping and even parkland —  has been granted “preliminary planning permission.”


I was wondering if the Foster announcement of planning permission was a way of suggesting that Crystal Island won’t face the kind of opposition that surrounds another huge Russian project, the proposed Gazprom headquarters in St. Petersburg. That’s the 67-story tower planned for a largely horizontal city that Russian architects and Mikhail Piotrovsky, the director of the Hermitage, have been loudly denouncing for over a year — in vain so far. It can’t hurt that Gazprom is one of the most powerful companies in Russia and that its chairman, Dmitri Medvedev, is probably going to be Putin’s successor as president.

Proposed Gazprom headquarters — Image: RMJM London