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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

New Heights for City Skyline

Courtesy of Foster PartnersAn artist's impression of the proposed Russia Tower within Moskva-City.
CANNES, France -- Spectacular plans for a 600-meter-tall tower to be built in Moscow to designs by British architect Sir Norman Foster were unveiled at the MIPIM international realty fair in Cannes, France, on Wednesday.

The presentation was hosted by Foster and Shalva Chigirinsky, the owner of ST Towers, the developer behind the project and part of ST Group, who recently won high-profile tenders to redevelop Moscow's Rossiya Hotel site and St. Petersburg's New Holland Island.

The Russia Tower -- more than 50 percent higher than the Empire State Building -- is to be built within the Moskva-City development, near the site's border with the Third Ring Road. It is to overshadow the 430-meter Federation Tower under construction at Moskva-City, which developers say will be the tallest building in Europe when it is completed in 2008.

The Russia Tower could give Moskva-City a trademark building like Foster's celebrated Swiss Re "gherkin" tower in the City of London, and it was this ability to create a recognizable image that Chigirinsky cited as one of his reasons for hiring the architect.

"He's combined the images of all the previous super projects for Moskva-City," said Mikhail Khazanov, architect of the new City Duma building, which is to be constructed nearby and was also presented at MIPIM.

City architect Alexander Kuzmin said he was pleased to see that Foster would be working in Moscow.

Last week's presentation was not the development's debut, however. Plans for a 648-meter-tall Russia Tower were first unveiled more than a decade ago, but last September they were put on hold.

"We decided to change the concept of the project: We cannot build such a tall tower that would become a target for terrorists," Chigirinsky said at the time.

In the newly unveiled plans, the slightly shorter, 420,000-square-meter tower is a striking design comprising three blade-like structures arranged in a trefoil-like plan around a central core and tapering sharply toward the top, with part of the steel structure exposed on the outside like an exoskeleton. Described by the architect as a vertical city, the tower is to house parking and retail space on nine underground levels, a public ice rink on the first floor under a spacious, pyramidal atrium, a hotel with serviced apartments above, 24 floors of office, high-end apartments on the top levels and a public observation deck at the very top. Foster said the resident population of the tower would be 25,000.

The Russia Tower is billed as an environmentally friendly project, maximizing natural ventilation and lighting, with solar cells, the collection of rainwater and snow to reduce water demand and the recycling of energy between areas with varying levels of demand. In addition, atria several floors high are to be spaced throughout the building's central core and decorated with plants, providing the luxury apartments on the upper floors with private gardens in the sky.

Foster said he was confident that the building would be as resistant to a Sept. 11-style terrorist attack as any building possibly could be, following the lessons learned from the collapse of the World Trade Center. He repeatedly stressed the inherent strength of the building's tripod-like form.

Chigirinsky said the construction of the tower would cost about $1.5 billion, and that about $150 million to $200 million would be supplied by his company. He did not provide details on sources for the remaining financing of the project beyond saying, "We're not poor people. We'll invest as much as it takes."

He said that the plans for the tower had essentially been approved and that he hoped the tower would be finished by about 2010, but was unable to name a date for the start of construction. He said no contractor had been chosen or prerental agreements signed.

In 2004, Chigirinsky won a controversial tender to redevelop the Rossiya Hotel site despite higher offers from two foreign bidders. Last month he gained the right to rebuild New Holland, using a plan also designed by Foster.

While Chigirinsky's political connections have helped, his experience has also played a part, said Darrel Stanaford, managing director at Noble Gibbons.

"Along with [Aurora business park developer] Forum Properties, Chigirinsky is the most experienced high-quality Russian developer," he said.

Staff Writer Conor Humphries contributed to this report.