Violence at the hearing over the Gazprom-tower in St. Petersburg
Line in front of the business-centre “Karelia”, where the the public hearing over the planed “Gazprom city” took place
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The pubic hearing on “Gazprom city” in St. Petersburg was scheduled on Sept. 1st, the traditional begining of the russian school year. But neither this important day for Russian families nor the early hour could prevent hundreds of protesters from a wide range of urban initiatives and political groups to show up. They insisted to take part in the decisions taken for their city and to rise their voices against a project, that insulted the very identity of the inhabitants of this most beautiful city, of which the center is entirely protected by UNESCO having a World Cultural Heritage status.
Too many people showed up to fit into the room the investor has leased for the hearing - they were not scared away by the huge number of (special) police and private security and the three controls they had to pass. Not all the people were here to protest: the investor has hired many extras to plead for the project - the story of the last hearing in June 2008 was iterated, where many extras from the Lenfilm-studios were brought in by bus to express their satisfaction with the project. This time, not only the controls were intensified, but the hearings degenerated partly into violence against the protestors.
Read more about the hearing here:
A public meeting to discuss RMJM’s proposal for a 400m tower in St
Petersburg descended into violence on Tuesday, with protesters being
forcibly removed by security guards working for the developer, Russian
gas giant Gazprom.
Police and protesters clash over RMJM’s Gazprom tower
Gazprom Guards, Protesters Clash Over Skyscraper
Thanks to international media two things became apparent: the stance on the project of the architectural studio designing the Gazprom-tower, London’s RMJM; and the existence of projects in RMJMs home city, Edinburgh, that caused similar indignation in another part of the world, but in a very similar setting.
The commentary Tony Kettle (RMJM’s design director) made about the role, his project should play in St. Petersburg, caused a storm of outrage amongst urban activists on internal listserves. Kettle stated in an article in “The Architect’s Journal”, he would bring “the special” to a city admired by the world for its beauty, and critisized UNESCO for trying to preserve this unique heritage. He also included Edinburgh as an example for this method, which “removes the bad and replaces it with the good”.
See his comments on St. Petersburg and Edinburgh and the role of UNESCO in both here
Not only in St. Petersburg his comments caused indignation amongst activists; the blogospere echoed the critique, adding information to the emotion.
Look at the extensive research of the Nemesis Republic here
Through the reclaiming spaces network the information found its way to initiatives in Kettles home city - Edinburgh. The result was not only compassion with the feelings of their fellow activists in St. Petersburg, the Canongate community published an elaborated answer to Kettle’s challenge:
See the answer of the Independent Republic of the Canongate here
The activists of the Republic struggle against a very similar problem in their home city
Read more about their activities: http://eh8.org.uk/sites/eh8.org.uk/files/canongate-final-report-web_0.pdf
The example of RMJM’s project in St. Petersburg shows something very clear: Architects, investors, planers and politicians went global since a while. If the struggle against mislead “development” and the rule of money is to be successful, activists’ networks have to grow international as well.