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Environment / Climate change

Moscow’s Shukhov tower was saved from demolition by a smartphone poll

The Shukhov Tower has been called Moscow’s Eiffel Tower, but it’s not exactly its spitting image. For a start, it’s much smaller – the tower was originally planned to be 350m tall, to beat the Eiffel Tower’s 308m, but a shortage of money meant the final structure, completed in 1922, only stretched to 148m. (Thanks to a few more beams and a flagpole, it eventually grew to 160m).  You also can’t go inside it or climb it, because it’s an operational transmission tower: no overpriced restaurant here.

But to Moscow’s residents, it’s as vital an icon as any tourist-stuffed Parisian attraction – as became clear when the government tried to get rid of it. This spring, the Russian State Committee for Television and Radio Broadcasting announced plans to dismantle the tower, and possibly rebuild it elsewhere. The outcry was immediate: Muscovites held protests, started petitions, and took selfies in front of the tower to show their support. Architects and designers signed a petition, begging for the tower to be restored rather than relocated.

Eventually, the city government put the tower’s fate in the hands of the people, by asking them to vote in a poll on Moscow’s civic app, Active Citizen. Around 90 per cent of voters said they wanted the tower to stay put; so, stay put it will.

The work required to preserve the building won’t come cheap, though: halting corrosion on the tower will cost around £2.2m other repairs could cost a further £8.3m.

So what’s the appeal? The tower’s design accounts for most of it: it’s a diagrid hyperboloid, which, in case you’ve forgotten, is a design using triangular structures with diagonal beams for extra support. It uses less steel than other types of structure, and, because it’s so light, it’s less vulnerable to wind.

Diagrid hyperboloids were the specialty of the tower’s designer, Vladimir Shukhov, who built hundreds of other towers and bridges. This tower’s design inspired the designs of other landmarks around the world, including London’s Gherkin (its architect, Norman Foster, was among those who signed the petition to save it the tower).

Here’s a couple of images showing a close-up view of the structure, and another of the tower at night:

Image: Lite at Wikimedia Commons.

Image: Maxim Federov at Wikimedia Commons.

Image: Kishjar via Flickr, reused under creative commons.
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