Russian Delights, Moscow Nights

russiapicI recently returned from a trip to Russia and I have some architectural news to report.

While the country’s economy may not be what it was in the boom days of high natural resources prices, things still look pretty good. It certainly looks better than when I was last there in 2003. And I saw a lot of construction still going on.

In Moscow, cranes and unfinished buildings were a common sight. It was a little difficult to tell for sure whether the buildings have been started but construction simply halted or if the construction is still underway. As pretty much everything else seemed to be in good shape, I made the assumption that the buildings, or most of them, were in the process of being constructed and would be finished.

While a lot of socialist-style buildings are still prevalent in Moscow, there is also a very prominent glass tower business center in the middle of the city, not un-similar to the Wall Street area in lower Manhattan or the City area in London. The design of these buildings may not be terribly distinctive, but taken as a while the attractiveness of the glass facades gives the city a modern appearance which is otherwise missing.

Our guide was eager to tell us that prominent architects such as Sir Norman Foster are doing or have done work in Russia, and natives are proud that their buildings can be designed by famous names like any other world-class city.

The big architectural news in St. Petersburg, which was founded by Peter the Great as the first step toward “westernizing” Russia, is that GazProm, the world’s largest oil and gas company whose origins are Russian, is going to build a high-rise structure in the downtown area. Traditionally, structures have not been built higher than the Winter Palace, the former home of the czars. This structure, too, will feature a glass façade and a modern look.

For someone involved in the architectural field like me, it was interesting to see the traditional Russian style of architecture, onion domes and all, alongside of new structures, which are meeting today’s needs. And, of course, the prominent role that architectural glass plays in them.