After observing the situation for some time now and processing all the recent articles about the Shukhov Tower, I’ve put together some thoughts on what’s been going on concerning the tower.
The recent actions of the Ministry of Communications has put the spotlight on the Shukhov Tower. Now that everything is out in the open, it’s worthwhile to highlight some unanswered questions:
The critical condition that the tower finds itself in today is nothing new. While admittedly deteriorating with each passing year, the tower has in fact been in such a “critical” condition for a long time, not having been painted with anti-corrosion substance for over 30 years. The tower became a property of the Ministry of Communications in 2002. In 2009, 135 million rubles were allocated for the restoration of the tower with Putin’s support. It is unclear where this money went and is a question in itself. So,
WHY has the tower not once, at bare minimum, been painted with anti-corrosion substance? (The Eiffel tower is painted once every 7 years)
WHY did the Ministry of Communications not spend their own money on preventative actions since one way or another the maintenance of historical buildings is required by the property’s owners.
WHY have they not been penalized for negligence? (They’ve demonstrated 12 years of inaction. And now they want to get rid of the tower…)
WHY February 2014? What has made the tower suddenly such a liability that it has to be immediately dismantled?
WHY after the unanimous agreement (the tower should be restored in place without dismantling) that was reached at the Public Chambers session on March 7, later the same day the exact opposite of this is included in the draft proposal ?
The media did their part in spreading the claim that the tower posed an imminent danger, going as far as providing computer graphics to show how the tower would fall and smash into neighboring buildings within a radius of 150 meters. Between sensationalized articles and news reports on TV, there’s been a lot of misinformation spread.
Aleksei Volin, the Ministry of Communications Deputy Minister behind the view that the Shukhov Tower poses a threat to safety, had some interesting comments regarding the role of media at the “Journalism in 2012: The Profession and Its Function in Society” conference held last February:
Do mass media serve a propaganda function? Of course they do, to the extent their owners believe appropriate. … Propaganda should not be obvious; propaganda should be hidden — then and only then can it be effective.
Hiding behind fear of the tower falling, the media has been effective in confusing a portion of the public. While activists were collecting signatures to save the Shukhov Tower from demolition, numerous people questioned their efforts, expressing concern that the tower is in a dangerous condition as they had heard in the news, and so of course it should be taken down to prevent an accident.
If this was indeed a serious life threatening risk, one might ask than why did the Ministry of Communications not doing anything about it earlier?
SETTING THINGS STRAIGHT
In response to sensationalized misinformation, numerous articles were dedicated to setting the facts straight, a summary of the main points:
1. Regarding the danger of the tower, there is no immediate danger to public safety.
- Because of its foundation, the tower can not fall down to one side as has been shown in graphics
- Extensive corrosion has indeed cause pieces to fall off. But they fall straight down, within the territory of the tower that is closed off to the public.
- Due to the tower’s design, the structure remains stable even when there are weak points caused by corrosion
2. Regarding the proposal to dismantle the tower, taking apart the tower would equal to its destruction.
- There are over 10,000 pieces. If it is taken apart, it is doubtful it will be put back together.
- The tower was built without blueprints. Shukhov personally oversaw the construction making the tower a “hand made” work. Anything reassembled would be a replica.
- A reassembled tower would lose its authenticity and integrity, preventing it from becoming a UNESCO site.
- It is more expensive to dismantle the tower than to restore it in place.
3. Regarding the idea to move the tower to a more “visible” location, the tower should stay in its historical location.
- The location of the tower is just as much a part of its history, as well as part of the tower’s regional cultural heritage site status
- While the construction of highrise buildings in historical areas are prohibited, there is an exception that a new building of the same height as the previous building is allowed. So on the freed up territory of the Shukhov Tower, a 160 meter luxury residential tower would be permissible, and very profitable.
- In 1991 Russia signed the International Convention on the Protection of the Architectural Heritage of Europe in 1985. In which Article 5 states: “Each Party undertakes to prohibit the removal, in whole or in part, of any protected monument, except where the material safeguarding of such monuments makes removal imperative.” There is no safeguarding required, except from negligence and greed.
Not to get into all the nuts and bolts (pun intended) of the restoration, but simply stated: it should be performed without disassembling the tower and the tower should remain in its historic place.
At the press conference and panel discussion on March 19, Galina Shelyapina of the Melnikova Research and Design Institute of Metal Construction, presented the institute’s recommendations for the tower’s restoration, a simple and economical approach:
- Reconstruction and evaluation of the tower can be done simultaneously, with repairs done in phases, fixing the most critical parts first.
- No complicated scaffolding required, the structure can support the weight of several teams working directly on the tower at once.
- This type of restoration is the most economical, with an estimation that work can be completed in 1.5 to 2 years
- Recommended to promote the tower as a tourist site and create a cultural complex in honor of Shukhov and engineering.