Just ten years ago there were barely a dozen skyscrapers in Moscow. Today soaring towers dominate the skyline and the city boasts Europe's tallest building. Our Observers in Moscow wonder how the rapid changes will affect the capital.

Increasingly tall constructions stand hundreds of metres above Moscow's once-grand Soviet buildings, which pale in comparison. Only in the last ten years the tallest tower in Europe, the Naberezhnaya Tower, grew out of the Moscow skyline at 268 metres. But in 2011 it will be dwarfed by an even bigger giant: at 612 metres, Russia Tower will be the second tallest building in the world. That will be followed by an enormous transparent tipi-shaped structure scheduled to go up by the Moskva River soon after. These developments do have a downside, however: some of the capital's historic (and crumbling) facades been destroyed to make way for the new landmarks.

Material compiled by one of our Observers for Russia, Ostap Karmodi.

Currently under construction

The Russia Tower, designed by British architect Norman Foster, is planned to reach 612-meters. Promotional photo by Foster and Partners.

This enormous tipi-shaped construction called The Crystal Island was also designed by Norman Foster. The €2.5bn project is planned for the next five years. Promotional photo by Foster and Partners.

Moscow’s more traditional landmark


Stalin had seven of these built in the 1950s. They're commonly known as the "Seven Sisters". This is the Kudrinskaya Square Building. Photo by Dmitry Rozhkov.

In 2003 a new version of the Seven Sisters was built. The Triumph-Palace apartment block was built to 264.1 meters, making it the tallest building in Europe. Photo by "Nixer" on fotocomp.com.

Moscow's financial district: "a city within a city"

Construction in "Moscow City" is planned to create "a city within a city". Photo by Andrey Permitin on Flickr.

Photo by Ilya Varlamov on Flickr.


Photo by Ivan Zharov on Flickr.

How Moscow's financial district is expected to look in four year's time. Photo from the Russian National Architecture Awards website.

"Russia [has] a whole lot of money and does not know how to spend it"

Vladimir Paperny is a Russian-American designer and culturologist (researcher of post-Soviet culture). He wrote the book Architecture in the Age of Stalin.

During Soviet times we used to think of our country as unique. It wasn't true then, and it's even less true now - now that we've built capitalism. We have a very distorted kind of capitalism, not at all like capitalism in the West, but it's not unique. Which countries build the biggest skyscrapers nowadays? I'm not an expert, but it seems to me that these are the oil-producing countries. These countries, including Russia, have a whole lot of money and do not know how to spend it.

If you look at what Western intellectuals think of Russia, you'll see that their sentiments are rather negative. They think of censorship, lack of political freedom, and an overconcentration of power. A rollback to Soviet practice it seems. And yet many creative people from the West are jumping into this supposedly horrible Russian world because it offers them grand opportunities for creative work. The fact that Norman Foster [the British architect behind the Russia Tower] is planning to build the biggest building in the world on the Crystal Island in Moscow illustrates this well. The people who pay for these projects could be immoral people who gain money through illegitimate means. But it's no different from the Renaissance times in Italy. Cesare Borgia and the Roman Popes who supported Michelangelo were monstrous criminals, villains and molesters. But that's not as important as the art that they financed. The Pharaohs were not any better. And the ancient Mexican civilization, which was the most blood-thirsty civilization ever known, with their mass human sacrifices, built one of the most amazing things I ever saw - the pyramids of the Sun and Moon not far from Mexico City. So, everything is just fine. Let them build."

"The emergency services are not ready to be able to handle an emergency"

Irina Korobyna is managing director of the Moscow Centre for Contemporary Architecture.

Moscow is an ambitious city. High-rises became a trademark of the capital after WWII when Stalin's landmark Seven Sisters were built. Today, both politicians and property developers are happily planning constructions around the ring road, in the upcoming "Moscow City" and on the historical island.

However, I don't think Moscow is ready for mass high-rise construction. It lacks experience in the building and maintenance of these new-generation skyscrapers. The quality of construction is not trustworthy - such projects require highly-educated workers, while most of the labourers on Moscow building sites are general workers brought in from central Asian states and former Soviet Republics.

Moreover, the infrastructure for servicing skyscrapers has simply not been developed yet. The emergency services are not ready to be able to handle an emergency in a building like that. Moscow has seen many technological hazards in recent years and should remember that such ambitious projects are only good as long as they are meticulously implemented."