Europe's tallest skyscraper nears completion
The tallest building in Europe is nearly complete. Rising above a new waterfront complex in St. Petersburg, Russia, the Lakhta Center's tower stands at 462 meters (1,516 feet) tall, making it the city's first "supertall" building (one measuring 300 meters or above).
The structure is now the northernmost skyscraper in the world, according to its developers.
The 87-story tower twists a full 90 degrees from its foundation to its top, like a winding needle. This makes it one of the world's tallest examples of a "twisted" skyscraper design.
Its soaring height is offset by a lower mixed-use building with a 260-meter-long (853-foot-long) facade. Residential and commercial space will be installed up to a height of 360 meters (1,181 feet), above which an observation deck and restaurant will offer breathtaking views over the Gulf of Finland.
Like a flame
The Lakhta Center takes the title of Europe's tallest building from Moscow's Federation Tower, completed in 2017, which stands at 374 meters (1,227 feet). Moscow is also home to five of the next six entries in the list, interrupted only by London's Shard, which was briefly the continent's tallest in 2012, at 310 meters (1,016 feet) tall.
Lakhta Center broke ground in 2012 and will serve as the headquarters of Russian gas giant Gazprom, which is carrying out the construction through a subsidiary. The firm is set to move in by the end of 2019.
According to Philip Nikandrov, one of the architects involved with the project, the exterior of the building will be completed by the end of this summer, although the interior fitting will continue into 2019.
Drone images show the main tower's impressive silhouette, which was designed to symbolize a flame -- a distinctive feature of Gazprom's logo.
Gazprom had long eyed St. Petersburg as a location for its new headquarters, first launching a project to build a tower in the city center in 2006. The complex, first known as Gazprom City and then Oktha Center, experienced local pushback from residents who believed it would ruin the city's historic heart, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1990.
After years of debate, which saw St. Petersburg's skyline appear on the World Monuments Fund's list of the 100 Most Endangered Sites, Gazprom eventually set its sights on Lakhta, an area about 5 miles northwest of the city center.
"The HQ will occupy around one third of the total area," said Nikandrov in an email interview, "with another third reserved for public facilities which will include a multi-purpose hall, retail space, medical and fitness centers, and a science museum with (a) planetarium."
The building's foundations were driven 82 meters (269 feet) into the ground, resulting in a Guinness world record in 2015 for the "largest continuous concrete pour" (a record beaten by a Dubai construction site two years later).
Winds near the top of the tower can blow at speeds of up to 85 mph, so the structure has been stabilized by 15 perimeter columns that redistribute weight away from its core.
The facade is made from 16,500 individual glass panes fitted with automatic shutters and valves designed to reduce heat loss. Developers also claim to have installed a number of other environmentally friendly measures, including a water reuse and purification system.
"Along its perimeter, the complex is surrounded by open public spaces: three public piazzas, an open 2,000-seat amphitheater, water features and a landscaped pedestrian embankment," said Nikandrov.
The Lakhta Center now ranks as the 13th tallest building in the world.