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Top Architects Unite To Save Russia’s Eiffel Tower

A landmark 1920s radio tower by famed Russian engineer Vladimir Shukhov is threatened with demolition.

Top Architects Unite To Save Russia’s Eiffel Tower
[Image: Radio Tower (Shukhov's Tower) via Flickr user Sergey Norin]
Worlds First Hyperboloid in Polibino photo by Arssenev. via Wikipedia

The Shabolovka Radio Tower, a Moscow architectural landmark whose design has had an influence on architects from Le Corbusier to Norman Foster, has been slated for demolition. Now, eminent architects (including Rem Koolhaas, Elizabeth Diller, Thom Mayne), engineers, and preservationists are rallying around a petition directed at Russian President Vladimir Putin to save the historic structure.

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Also known as the Shukhov Tower, in reference to its designer, pioneering Russian engineer Vladimir Shukhov, the tower was built in 1922 with the goal of spreading Communism through the up-and-coming medium of radio broadcasting. The hyperboloid steel lattice tower, noted for the strength and lightness of its structure, stands almost 525 feet tall. In its original design, it would have been as tall as the Eiffel Tower (a little more than 1,000 feet) and only a quarter of that structure’s weight, but a shortage of materials thwarted those plans.

Shukhov Hyperboloid Tower Project, 1919.via Wikipedia

Over its 92-year lifespan, the tower has aged, not entirely gracefully. Russian leaders have been arguing over what to do with it for years, while, in the meantime, the tower continues to corrode, unprotected from the elements. In 2009, Putin announced his support for restoring the tower, and in 2010, the Russian government passed a bill to funnel 135 million rubles into the effort. So far, nothing has come of these efforts, and those in favor of dismantling the structure say it’s in a dangerous state of disrepair. In late February, the Russian State Committee for Television and Radio Broadcasting agreed that it should be dismantled, but last week’s petition–led by Shukhov’s great-grandson and Richard Pare, a photographer of Soviet modernist architecture–argues that “no conclusive evidence of danger has been demonstrated, although deferred maintenance has had negative effects on the surface of the structure.”

“It is one of the emblems of Moscow, and one of the superlative engineering feats of the twentieth century, still influencing and enriching technical and architectural ideas globally,” the petition continues. It would be a shame, its supporters argue, to let it be replaced by a 50-story luxury high-rise.

[H/T: The New York Times]

About the author

Shaunacy Ferro is a Brooklyn-based writer covering architecture, urban design and the sciences. She's on a lifelong quest for the perfect donut.

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