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Exclusive | Design row erupts over Europe's tallest skyscraper

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The UK’s top architectural bodies have been called upon to rule on a design dispute over Europe’s tallest skyscraper. 

The design team at Russian studio Gorproject has accused Scottish firm Kettle Collective of stealing the authorship for the design of the Lakhta Centre tower in St. Petersburg, Russia. 

Gorproject design team has now reported the Edinburgh-based firm to the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS).  

However, Kettle Collective denies any wrongdoing and stressed that they “do not have a dispute”, when contacted by New Civil Engineer.

In its official letter, Gorproject design team accused Kettle Collective of “manipulations of facts, falsification and repeated attempts of authorship theft”. 

“At least since the appointment of Gorproject as Lead Designer […] in 2011 we never received any letters from Mr. Kettle and never communicated with him over the design matters related to these iconic projects,” Gorproject chief architect Philip Nikandrov said in the letter seen by New Civil Engineer.

“In such long and complex projects zero involvement also means zero authorship at the end.”

The client, Russian energy giant Gazprom, confirmed that Kettle Collective boss Tony Kettle was the author of the original archictectural concept when he worked at the now-defunct RMJM architects in 2006.

However, by the time RMJM went bust in 2012, the £1.5bn project had been handed over to Gorproject a year earlier. 

While Nikandrov accepts Kettle’s involvement in the original masterplan and admits the final concept “contains certain ideas and stylistic directions from the previous concepts”, he refutes the claim that Kettle Collective owns any part of the designs. 

“The masterplan concept of 2011 by RMJM excluded all engineering disciplines and tests of its physical model in the wind tunnel, the absolutely necessary exercise for the responsible architectural concept of any skyscraper, especially for such seaside environment with strong winds on Lakhta site.

“Eventually this omission resulted in significant changes for the entire composition and massing, which after the wind tunnel and snow tests held in the beginning of 2012 had been totally redesigned by Gorproject team into what is now becoming the realized architecture of the Lakhta Centre.”

The 462m-tall skyscraper was relocated to the Lakhta Site in 2011 and Gorproject was appointed as the lead designer. Working design has been led by Samsung C&T since 2014, with Gorproject as a subcontractor. 

Renaissance Construction, Aecom, NIIOSP, Arabtec, Geostroy, Bauer Group, and Exclusiva Design have also been involved in building the 87-floor tower which is due to be completed by the end of the year. 

RIBA and RIAS are yet to respond to Gorproject’s complaint. Both have been contacted by New Civil Engineer, but could not provide comment at this time.  

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