The world’s biggest ever building by Foster + Partners


Foster + Partners have released designs for the biggest building ever built: Crystal Island in Moscow will be 450m high, cover an area of almost half a million square metres and contain a total floor area of 2.5 million square metres.

The structure will house theatres, exhibition spaces, retail and catering businesses, 3,000 hotel rooms, 900 serviced apartments and a school for 500 students. There will also be two public viewing platforms, one at 150m and another at 300m.

The following information is from Foster + Partners:


Foster + Partners creates the world’s largest single building

One of the world’s most ambitious building projects, Crystal Island has been granted preliminary planning permission in Moscow. Enclosed within a vast mega structure covering a total floor area of 2.5million square metres – the project’s scale is unprecedented. At 450m the scheme is one of the tallest structures enclosing the largest volume, on the planet. It also creates a spectacular new emblem on the Moscow skyline. Conceived as a self-contained city within a city, it contains a rich mix of buildings including museums, theatres and cinemas, to ensure that it is a major new destination for the whole of Moscow.

Crystal Island was presented to the Moscow Public and Architectural Council last Friday and is a highly anticipated new project. Located on the Nagatino Peninsula, edged by the Moscow River, it is located only 7.5 km from the Kremlin, and offers panoramic views over Moscow from a viewing platform at its apex.

Crystal Island will have a range of cultural, exhibition and performance facilities, approximately 3000 hotel rooms and 900 serviced apartments, as well as offices and shops, designed to maintain a dynamic and animated public realm throughout the day. Residents are able to work and live within a densely planned area where every amenity is within easy walking distance, including an international school for 500 students. Mixed-use also presents a strong case for energy balance, with individual components using energy at different times, while reinforcing the breadth of economic and social activity of the area.

The building’s spiraling form emerges majestically from a newly landscaped park, rising in converse directions to form a diagonal grid. This distinctive geometry extends throughout the project into the park. The result is that the scheme is seamlessly integrated into a new park landscape, which provides a range of activities throughout the year, including cross country skiing and ice skating in the winter.

The internal built volumes of over one million square metres (more than ten million square feet) assume a staggered formation within the triangulated steel mega frame, extending flush against the sloping facetted glazed outer skin. This terracing creates a series of winter gardens, which form a breathable second layer and thermal buffer for the main building, shielding the interior spaces from Moscow’s extreme summer and winter climates. A vertical louvre system sheaths the internal facades to ensure privacy for the individual apartments.

Enclosure panels on a dynamic geometry are slotted into the structural framing to allow daylight to penetrate deep into the heart of the scheme and can be controlled to modify the internal environment – closed in winter for extra warmth and opened in summer to allow natural ventilation. Energy management is at the heart of the design, with additional strategies to include on-site renewable and low-carbon energy generation.

Norman Foster 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.”

1496 Crystal City Facts and Figures:

Project Area:

Total Gross External Area (Above Ground): 1,100,000 m2
Site area: 440,000 m2


Public 360deg Top Observation Deck (at 300m level): 3000 m2 gross external area

Public 360deg Main Observation Deck (150m ): 6000 m2

Serviced apartments – approx. 900 units (80m to 140m): 265,000 m2

Hotel – approx. 3000 keys (12m to 80m ): 245,000 m2

Offices (40m to 80m ): 75,000 m2

Retail, Catering, Entertainment (0m to 40m ): 160,000 m2

Museum and IMAX (0m to 40m ); 100,000 m2

Theatres – 1500, 750, 750 seats (0m to 40m): 95,000 m2

School – 500 students (0m to 40m): 4000 m2

Covered Public Space: 150,000 m2

Sub-Total Above Ground: 1,100,000 m2

Sub-Total Above 150m: 3,000 m2

Underground Parking – approx. 14,000 spaces: 525,000 m2

Utilities and services: 875,000 m2

Sub-Total Below Ground: 1,400,000 m2

Total: 2,503,000 m2


Top of structure: 450m
Top Viewing Platform: 300m
Main Viewing Platform: 150m
Perimeter building height: 20m

Floor to floor heights (above ground): 4m
Floor to floor height retail: 6m
Floor to floor height parking: 4m

All images courtesy of Foster + Partners.

Posted by Rose Etherington

Posted on Wednesday January 2nd 2008 at 4:55 pm by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • I don´t like it at all. That gigantism is just ridiculous. That reminds my of elf – architecture in lord of the rings, at least it´s funny :D.

  • Tyler

    yet another x-seed but more gently designed ;-) i don’t like it either

  • redster

    Looks ridiculous!
    They could have easily split up the programm into smaller volumes and integrated the whole thing into the park and connected it to the urban context.
    I don´t see the need for this oppressivly gigantic ideal geometry, that seams so unresponsiv and despotic. Just like the old communist monstrosities.
    They could have just aswell piled up some communist blocks and wrap them in steel net, to me there is not such a big difference.

    Despite that even Stalin would have been afraid of that thing.

  • M

    one could criticise the form, geometries of this design but its doing something right – that is to point architecture towards the future. With sustainability issues creating ever more global awareness, maybe we’re coming to an age where the dreams of Archigrams’ compact, efficient, self powered cities on macro sites is coming into fruition – where buildings will beginning to loose its significance over micro cities

  • jake

    I want to like it, but i don’t. It looks almost.. evil.

  • rodger

    yes, i agree, this project is fundamentally flawed and wrong.
    i don’t think it should be built.
    one of the big problems with this geometry is that it will be very difficult to orient yourself with your surroundings with a circular building like this.
    circular planning of anything on an urban scale sucks. big time…

  • roadkill

    for all its faults i think there is something positive regarding the scale and use of land / resources… bigger buildings can perform much better that way

  • Nuno

    Holy crap….

  • if this should represent the future of architecture i’m out of here. besides, why would rogers want to build in a country ruled by a total regime?
    underneath you find the link of the projects location. you can’t replace all these buildings-blocks by 900 luxury flats. rogers playing around in the name of ecology, lovely.,+Nagatino&sll=55.769621,37.493248&sspn=0.0871,0.233459&ie=UTF8&ll=55.680972,37.705936&spn=0.043649,0.11673&t=h&z=13&om=1

  • James

    a developers dream… and is it just me or does this look like something from simcity?

  • Razif

    The thing about this building that I don’t like is that it makes so much out of the unnecessary. In terms of engineering achievements , it might be another milestone to Foster and his partners, but it seems like it demands authority. The buildings gesture seems to be very opinionated about it siting and I say it is so bullying its way into it site.

    I think in some ways being utopian destroys the idea of living in harmony individually.

  • Razif

    I think the idea came from watching old superman movies.

  • Razif

    The other thing that I hate about this is that it reminds me of the movie ‘ the truman show ‘ where the ideal world ignores the reality.

    Can’t relate.

  • roboto

    …there is no end..!? capitalism – gigantism – ! it’s a shame to support a country like russia in such a political interest.
    architects have responsibility!!!!

  • (((0)))

    The right building for Putin’s dictorialship.

  • togon

    it may looks circular in those views, but, given its huge scale, i dont think the planning will take a circular approach. (it justs looks circular cause of the scale).

    One can only hope that these gigantous scale constructions won’t bring on an effect seen in final fantasy 7’s midgard city.

  • Julio Cesar

    Another gigantic white elephant from Foster & Partners, it seems like the ego of architects will keep growing bigger than the need of better citys and nice places. I hope this kind of architecture comes to an end… its time to do things right, you got what you need…

  • Woooaaaahh! Its spectacular – I know no one else here seems to like it – but it is mindblowing especially the aerial daigram! A magnificent Tower of Babel

  • Me

    This cannot be “the biggest building ever built” as it hasn’t been built yet. It would be interesting to see what it’s like on the inside – inhabited.

  • wim

    so banal, you can die…

  • A.J.

    Yet another fruit of the motherland of oppressive architecture.
    Otherwise, totally pointless.

  • Daniel

    that is one ugly building, don´t know why do they insist with this huge megasuperhyperbuildings, it’s almost as outdated as its geometry. I can understand really tall building because of lack of space but this is just the oppossite. someone there posted that this microcities will be the future of architecture, because of sustainability, but i can hardly see this expensive technology to be a real global solution. This is not sustainability, this just separates you from your enviroment, its not living with it, its a bubble. if this is sustainability, i say the cure is far worst than the illness.

  • Q

    Foster is out of control, man!

    I've seen his stuff lately and some of it doesn't respect context at all (see some of the buildings in Abu Dhabi and Dubai – insane). I'd like to see how they accomodated their program in this building. What happens in the middle of the tower at the atrium? Are they proposing a black hole or something? Don't tell us that that's the world's biggest plaza and public space. Because that's BS.

    Architecture to the people. Not to their egos…

    • Nelly

      I agree with your points regarding functionality for this particular builsing, but seriously- Dubai and Abu Dhabi? There is nothing to do but be banal in these contexts. There is no context, just sand…. or rocks (sorry that's Doha)

  • philipp

    this is not sustainable, it’s greenwashed.

  • C

    That’s ridiculous, what happend to Mr. Foster?
    But that’s the problem of big Offices, they become factories,
    earning loads of money, proposing always bigger buildings.
    Certainly Mr. Foster wasn’t involved in the design progress,
    maybe he didn’t even see it before it got published, that’s how it
    works in these Offices !!! Result: Lack of quality !!!

  • Jelle

    this is phenomenal, it is what Koolhaas called “Bigness”. It is, maybe, a new way of thinking about the city, the communities etc… The keypoint about bigness is that you cannot judge it. It is there and it coëxists, it is beyond judgement… well I read the comments, and those who say it is foolish, gay or crap didn’t took the time to understand it, those who love it are fooled by the image. I just like this because it goes beyond good or bad…

    Nice discussion, but a nice building? God knows..

  • roadkill

    now most of you are just piss taking! don’t get this political crap…
    like i said there are many benefits of working with this scale and the hierarchy of the building is reminiscent of old soviet model city plan, so in that sense it is quite ‘appropriate’… The man is not mad, and what most of you see as lack of design progress others see it as an interesting step towards the architecture of the future. look around you… where do you think you come from? where do you shop and entertain yourselves?

  • bald skull

    pure ridiculousness…

    a modern day great pyramid?

  • gan-san


  • jake
  • Razif

    Dear Jelle,

    Have you been to Moscow ? They’ve got a special route for rich people. I believe this ‘gargantuan for the niche’ is bad for society because its not because were talking about structure nor programmes, but more of the implication towards its future society. Thing is it can’t be stopped as money has become such commodity that we all live upon.

    Trust me, architecture ain’t just about buildings, its a reflection of its society.

  • world’s biggest tit

  • I’m quite indifferent to the actual aesthetics etc, but there’s something terribly reminding me of 1970s Towering-inferno/The Big Bus type films here, its like if you’re going to say a building is the biggest ever, its got to be beset by failure! Noooooo

  • roadkill

    about time you all realise that architecture does not change or make a better society… the future has already happen, all that remains is for us to catch up with it – and it won’t be pretty.

  • pah
  • oxo

    I don’t like megalomaniac like foster and mafia. Something like this but modest was built in 60’s in Czech. Looks nice, isn’t it? Designed with respect to nature.

  • martin sisack

    All the small talk about the sustentaibility of the building seems so ridiculous after taking a glimps at the stupid and enormous building… trying to sell it to an idiot as a green buliding!!!

  • Julia

    It’s beautiful and I love it. Can’t please everyone…

  • This seems like a great way to separate the classes.

    The rich stay inside this insular building and never leave its safe confines.

    The great unwashed remain outside in the old city — except for the ones with the passes to come in and take out the trash.

    I like it — as long as I can among the haves. Otherwise, no.

  • Chris

    It’s the new Soviet Brutalist Architecture.

    As another post-er said, “perfect for Putin’s dictatorship”.

  • Susan Kornfeld

    A great idea, long overdue. Conserve surrounding green space, conserve energy. Lots of small buildings are killing the planet.

  • BobN

    Unless I’m missing something in the figures, it seems rather low in density for an urban area. The park is a nice idea, but I wonder what’s on the site now that will be demolished. If it’s Soviet era blocks, no great loss, but 7.5 km from the Kremlin… one would expect historic buildings, no?

    Also, horizontal and low-sloping areas in urban areas collect a LOT of grime and soot. I guess they could use river water to clean the structure frequently.

  • misshon

    science-fiction playground for big boys…
    and the worst in it: it`s exorbitant, it`s political, it`s damn real.

  • For some reason I can’t get Orwell’s Ministry of Love out of my mind

  • Its look nice to me, however I am more interested to know if there are any environmental benefits of this tower.

  • CPO

    1)High-interior volume structures like this are anything BUT sustainable because energy consumption for HVAC, plumbing, and miscellaneous machinery would be TREMENDOUS. The ecological impact footprint…impossible and selfish.
    2)Then there’s the issue of the effect of the monstrous amount of ‘gray air’ being pumped out into the compact region surrounding the monolith; the insulating parklands would stink of all the respired exhalations of 10,000 (vodka-soaked, chain-smoking?) bodies.
    3) Interior sunlight, anybody? I have a feeling all of the apartments and good hotel rooms will be lining the glass skin of the building, but who wants to go to work, school, or a museum in a building that is effectively a bunker? I suppose that all depends on the layout but the vast cavern of interior space would create a dismal vertiginous netherworld for many occupants at its center.

  • I understand cities are characteristically evolving, so I wonder how this design accommodate this natural tendency; or else it is a very exclusive scheme designed for exclusive society within.

  • bULLa

    Generally I hate the ‘worlds biggest…..’ specially in architectural design terms. It is just a geometric monster rather than a work of architecture. It lends itself more to technology and geometry rather than charm and beauty.

  • O-pine

    But after all these comments and points of view….the Russians HAVE MONEY, and at the end of it all, this design exists ONLY because someone has the cash to pay for it, nothing else.