Moscow's mayor attacks Foster's high-rise plan

A grandiose plan by Norman Foster to erect a high-rise hotel development in central Moscow has been heavily criticised by the city's authorities who fear it will look far too tall next to the neighbouring Kremlin and central Moscow's medieval churches.

To compound the architect's discomfort, Mayor Yuri Luzhkov also accused Lord Foster of designing an incongruous oval-shaped concert hall for the Russian capital that he pejoratively likened to London's Albert Hall and suggested should be completely redesigned.

Mr Luzhkov told Lord Foster at a meeting in Moscow to go back to the drawing board. The powerful mayor leavened criticism with praise and gave his conditional blessing for Lord Foster to go ahead with both projects. But he made it clear that his blessing could be withdrawn if radical changes are not made.

Both the hotel and the concert hall are slated to be built on a 13-acre riverside plot which is a stone's throw from the Kremlin and used to be home to the hulking Soviet-era Hotel Rossiya which is in the process of being demolished.

The condemned hotel, once the world's largest, was regarded by many Muscovites and visitors as a hideous eyesore and the idea was to resurrect the 19-century district that preceded it.

Moscow's city fathers want the 3,000-room hotel replaced with a sprawling multifunctional development complete with new hotels, offices, shops and cafés, subterranean parking space for 2,000 cars, a concert hall, cinemas, a huge public square and a terminal for boats on the adjacent river Moskva.

The tender for the project was won by ST Development, a company controlled by a wealthy Russian with close ties to Mr Luzhkov. It won the bid in 2004 by submitting an artist's impression of the finished site which charmed the mayor. It was drawn up by Russian architects and showed pastel-coloured recreations of 18th- and 19th-century Moscow mansions so as not to jar with the Kremlin.

But since Lord Foster was brought in the design has changed radically.

The height of the buildings, of which there will be 10 or 11, appears to have shot up from a planned six storeys to nine or even 10 levels. Plans to recreate the area's main 19th-century street have been dropped altogether as "impractical" and a major cultural element has been added with a museum and more concert halls than first planned.

Russian architects have said the design has become "hi-tech" with some questioning whether it is suitable for such a sacred site.

Mr Luzhkov, the man who has to sign off on the project, has been the most outspoken critic though. He said that Lord Foster's idea of an oval-shaped concert hall was just not right.

"Maybe I've really got too old," said the mayor who recently turned 70, "but it's just not Moscow. "There's nothing like this anywhere else in central Moscow. It's more like the Albert Hall."

He said the proposed height of the development was "really, really not right". "The churches... look like toys [in comparison to the hotel]. The balance of heights and proportions needs to be different."

Lord Foster's office said there were always "negotiations" when it came to architectural plans.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk