Foster's design for world's biggest building given go-ahead by Moscow planners

Last updated at 19:30 03 January 2008

A British architect has designed the world's largest building, described as a £2 billion "city within a city".

Norman Foster's gigantic circus tent-shaped building will contain 27 million sqft of floorspace - unrivalled by any other structure on the planet.

It is set to tower nearly 1,500ft into the air - becoming one of the world's tallest buildings - and house up to 30,000 residents.

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It will dwarf Foster's recent UK projects, including the 590ft-tall "Gherkin" in the City of London and the new Wembley stadium, and the architect described the project as a career "milestone."

Located on the Nagatino Peninsula in Moscow, less than five miles from the Kremlin, Crystal Island will contain a variety of mixed-use buildings including 3,000 hotel rooms and 900 serviced apartments.

There will be everything from an international school for 500 pupils, offices and shops to museums, theatres and cinemas under its enormous fanned roof.

The ambitious project being led by Foster + Partners architects has just been granted preliminary planning permission in Moscow and could be completed within six years.

Visitors and residents will be able to take in panoramic views over the city from a viewing platform 980ft above ground level.

The spectacular design is based around a triangulated steel mega frame. The tower spirals downwards from a sharp peak with a glass facade that resembles cut crystal.

The building has an atrium which will open in summer to cool the 500ft-high public open space inside.

And a terraced series of winter gardens will extend downwards flush against the glazed outer skin of the structure.

These gardens are designed to form a breathable second layer and thermal buffer for the main building, shielding the interior from Moscow's extreme climates.

A vertical louvre system sheaths the internal facades of the building to ensure privacy for people living in the apartments.

Its unique design also includes dynamic enclosure panels slotted into the structural frame to let daylight penetrate deep into the heart of the building.

These can be adjusted to alter the internal environment - closed in winter for extra warmth and opened in summer to allow natural ventilation.

The entire structure will rise over a new landscaped park that extends the distinctive geometry of the building itself.

And parkland around the complex will offer cross-country skiing and ice-skating in the winter to residents and visitors.

Lord Foster, 72, said: "Crystal Island is one of the world's most ambitious building projects and it represents a milestone in the 40 year history of the practice.

"It is the largest single building in the world, creating a year-round destination for Moscow and a sustainable, dynamic new urban quarter.

"It is a paradigm of compact, mixed-use, sustainable city planning, with an innovative energy strategy and 'smart' skin which buffers against climate extremes."

A Foster + Partners spokesperson added: "Residents are able to work and live within a densely planned area where every amenity is within easy walking distance.

"Energy management is at the heart of the design, with additional strategies to include on-site renewable and low-carbon energy generation."

Crystal Island will be twice as wide as the Millennium Dome and nearly double the height of Canary Wharf tower - the closest London has to a skyscraper.

It will dominate the view for passengers arriving on flights into Moscow's Domodedovo airport, which bank sharply over the proposed site shortly before landing.