The skyline's the limit, Muscovites tell developers

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The Independent Online

Flush with oil receipts and imbued with a resurgent sense of national pride, Russia has started building what is being billed as Europe's tallest skyscraper as it begins to transform much of Moscow into a futuristic glass and metal megalopolis.

Flush with oil receipts and imbued with a resurgent sense of national pride, Russia has started building what is being billed as Europe's tallest skyscraper as it begins to transform much of Moscow into a futuristic glass and metal megalopolis.

But conservationists say the city's skyline is being ruined, historic buildings are being torn down at an alarming rate and much of the new development is illegal.

The specialist construction website Emporis says the Russian capital already has the continent's tallest structure, a high-rise, neo-Stalinist apartment complex called Triumph Palace. But at 1,115ft the new skyscraper, called the Federation, will dwarf it by 249ft. The Federation, a symbol of power and prestige, will join Stalin's "seven sisters", hulking Soviet-era skyscrapers built in the 1940s and 1950s.

Moscow's city fathers, led by the Mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, have a Soviet-style taste for the monumental and plan at least 100 skyscrapers. Many will be 50 storeys, prompting architects to warn that Moscow will be turned into an amphitheatre, with the Kremlin at its centre.

The Federation is part of a three-tower business centre complex called Moskva City that will sit beside the Moscow river. The first tower, a 17-storey, £158m building, opened this month. A second tower of 27 storeys is to join it within a year and the 57-storey Federation is to be completed by 2007, Moscow's 860th anniversary.

Clem Cecil, co-founder of the Moscow Architecture Preservation Society, says: "There's a lot of corruption. There are strict rules for what you can and can't build], yet skyscrapers are going up which are technically illegal."

Dozens of architects, conservationists and citizens signed a plea to President Vladimir Putin urging him to step in to preserve old Moscow.

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