Architect hits back in row over Russian tower

Architect Tony Kettle with his original design concept. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Architect Tony Kettle with his original design concept. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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A Scottish architect has accused a Russian firm threatening him with legal action over the design of an iconic tower in St Petersburg as fostering “the architectural equivalent of fake news”.

Designers from Moscow practice Gorproject attacked Tony Kettle, who designed the Falkirk Wheel when he held the post of chief designer at Edinburgh-based RMJM, for claiming “authorship” of the Lakhta Center building which is to become the headquarters of Russian utility firm Gazprom.

The near-completed building in St Petersburg.

The near-completed building in St Petersburg.

While at RMJM, Kettle was behind the original design which won a competition in 2006.

However, following a public outcry over the height of the structure, which is the 13th tallest building in the world, the location was moved and the tower design altered.

The Gorproject architects have insisted that the building was built to their design and insisted that Kettle remove mention of it from the website of his new eponymous firm, The Kettle Collective.

Now Kettle has released three photographs: one of his original design, another of a second design undertaken by his former employer after the site of the tower moved and the third of the tower, which stands at a little over 1,500ft, insisting that it is “blindingly obvious” that they are the same design.

“The claim is simply wrong,” Kettle said. “This is an obvious attempt to rewrite history and claim authorship of the concept.

“It’s the architectural equivalent of fake news.

“Anyone looking at the original design entry and the finished project can see it’s the RMJM design. It’s so blindingly obvious that I’m at a loss as to why he would even attempt this.”

Earlier this week, Gorproject designers, led by chief architect Philip Nikandrov, who also worked for RMJM between 2007 and 2011, made a formal complaint to architectural bodies the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland over the issue and said that if the Kettle Collective continued to claim ownership of the project, they would consider legal action.

A spokesman for the Lakhta Center said he backed Kettle’s position.

He said: “The development of the project and of the working documentation has been carried out based on the concept proposed and amended by RMJM, whose design director was Tony Kettle, currently working in the Kettle Collective company.

“A key requirement for any additional design work was to maintain the visual concept of RMJM and this has been achieved at all stages of the project.

“The authorship of the design and its various stages are reflected in the official Lakhta Center project resources and are open to a wide audience, which obviously takes this issue out of the discussion.”