Controversial skyscraper alters Chile capital skyline

Updated 11 December 2012
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Controversial skyscraper alters Chile capital skyline

The skyline of Chile’s capital has been altered over the past year by a skyscraper — the tallest in South America and one so towering it casts a shadow nearly two kilometers (more than a mile) long.
The 70-story Gran Torre Costanera Center, a giant that dwarfs the city’s other skyscrapers, overwhelms the view of a city founded in 1541 by Spanish conquistadors and that remains proud of its colonial-era buildings.
Workers completed the top floor of the nearly $ 1 billion structure in February, and in March 2013 tenants are expected to start moving in.
The 300-meter tall Gran Torre is not as tall as New York’s iconic Empire State Building (381 meters) and is less than half the size of the world’s tallest building, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa (828 meters). But it is significantly taller than the other regional giant, the Trump Ocean Club in Panama City (293 meters).
A six-floor shopping mall has also risen next to the Gran Torre, and three other skyscrapers — two high-end hotels and an office building — are going up nearby.
The Gran Torre was built to withstand earthquakes — Chile, located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, is especially prone to powerful quakes. The building came through with flying colors in February 2010, surviving the 8.8 magnitude quake that devastated much of south-central Chile with no structural damage.
Residents and city planners complain that people going to and from the complex will generate massive traffic jams and gridlock in an already tightly-packed city.
Once the edifice is completed, there will be nearly 700,000 square meters of building space available built on 47,000 square meters of land. Planners estimate there will be some 240,000 people going to and from the site each day.
“We’re talking about five percent of the city circulating within a few square kilometers,” complained architect and urban planner Julio Hurtado.
“The long-term consequences of this chaos it will be a topic for experts to study,” he told AFP.
The Gran Torre is located in the heart of Santiago’s financial district, and known locally as ‘Sanhattan.’ It was designed by Cesar Pelli, the Argentine architect who also designed the 452-meter tall Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur.
Taller than even some of the Andean hills surrounding Santiago, the Torre is now a universal point of reference in this city of six million people.
Its owner, German-born supermarket magnate Horst Paulmann, once gushed that the site will be for Santiago what the Eiffel Tower is for Paris — a comparison that raised eyebrows, if not snickers.
“The Eiffel Tower is a monument, not a building. There is no comparison,” said Luis Eduardo Bresacini, head of Chile’s Architects’ Association.
The building may lack the graceful curves of Gustave Eiffel’s iconic structure, but the torpedo-like structure is not without some grace.
“It’s a fairly neutral building,” said Bresacini.
Hurtado was kinder. “From an architectural point of view, it is interesting and unique. A pretty object,” he told AFP.
In many ways the Gran Torre is emblematic of 21st century Chile, a country with strong economic growth but with enormous income disparity, where ten percent of the country’s wealthiest have income 35 times higher than the poorest 10 percent.
The Gran Torre, which will have 41 elevators and 5,500 parking spots when it opens, “is a symbol of the evolution of wealth, which in Chile is shown but not shared,” said Hurtado.
It also symbolizes “a country at the threshold of being developed but still with brutal contradictions,” he said.
The builders praise their structure as “the most imposing commercial and architectural landmark in Santiago” and “emblematic of Chile’s commercial development.”
Work on the giant structure halted for ten months in 2009, during the height of the global financial crisis. The shell at the time seemed to symbolize the country’s shattered dreams of economic grandeur.
But when work re-started, it became a symbol of Chile’s economic recovery.


World Cup 2018: A Muslim-friendly travel guide

Updated 13 June 2018
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World Cup 2018: A Muslim-friendly travel guide

Moscow

Both Tunisia and Iran are based in the vibrant 800-year-old Russian capital, renowned for its golden domes and stunning orthodox architecture. It is home to the famous Russian ballet and a wealth of art, culture and iconic scenery, including the breathtaking Red Square. A truly multicultural capital, Moscow is home to a sizeable Muslim community, which first began to settle here around the time of the Golden Horde. If you want to explore some of the capital’s Islamic heritage, visit the historic Muslim area, Zamoskvorechie, and head for the ‘Historical Mosque,’ built in 1823 by Muslim tatars. Reopened in 1993 after a lengthy closure under communism, the mosque has recently undergone a major refurbishment. Along with the 10k-capacity Moscow Cathedral Mosque (pictured), it is the capital’s most significant Muslim building.
Halal Food: You’ll find plenty on offer, from highly rated restaurants including Mr. Livanets (Lebanese), Dyushes (Azerbaijani), and Gandhara (Asian) to halal food carts.
Mosque: The Moscow Cathedral Mosque on Pereulok Vypolzov.
Qibla: South.

Saint Petersburg

Saudi Arabia’s national team will be based in this bastion of Russian imperialism, known as the Russian ‘Venice’ for its stunning network of canals, neo-Renaissance architecture and its plethora of culture, arts and all things splendid. Visitors can enjoy a wealth of museums, galleries, open promenades and the finest dining in the northern hemisphere — talking of which, sun lovers will be delighted to know that during the World Cup the sun will barely dip below the horizon. Muslim visitors should not miss the St. Petersburg Mosque’s sumptuous Central Asian architecture and mesmeric blue tiles (pictured) — a design inspired by Tamerlane’s tomb in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.
Halal Food: Limited, in comparison to Moscow, but both Eastern European restaurant Navruz and Oh! Mumbai (Indian) have received generally positive online reviews.
Mosque: St. Petersburg Mosque on Kronverkskiy Prospekt.
Qibla: South-east.

Grozny

Egypt’s ‘Pharaohs’ should feel right at home in the Chechen capital, which is home to a huge Muslim population (its coat of arms features a mosque), making it one of the most halal-friendly destinations on our list. The mosque in question is the city’s flagship monument and main tourist attraction, the Ottoman-style Akhmad Kadyrov Mosque. Modelled on Istanbul’s Sultanahmet Mosque and sited in a serene location on the west bank of the Sunzha River, it is part of an ‘Islamic’ complex also housing the Russian Islamic University, Kunta Hajji, and is the spiritual headquarters for the Muslims of the Chechen Republic. Much of Grozny is still being rebuilt after being virtually destroyed in two wars with Russia in the 1990s and 2000s, much of it through investment from the UAE.
Halal Food: Chechnya is majority-Muslim, so you’ll be spoiled for choice, from fast-food chain Ilis to high-end restaurants in five-star hotels.
Mosque: Akhmad Kadyrov on Prospekt Putina.
Qibla: South-west.

Voronezh

Morocco are based in quiet (at least until the tournament starts), picturesque Voronezh. The city is littered with lush green spaces and stunning churches. It’s home to a large orthodox Christian community, as well as small Jewish and still-smaller Muslim ones. The city’s beautiful 114-year-old synagogue on Ulitsa Svobody is a popular tourist attraction. Those looking for more ‘familiar’ heritage should head to the Kramskoy Museum of Fine Arts on Revolyutsii Avenue, home to an impressive collection of ancient Egyptian works of art on stone and sarcophagi.
Halal Food: Very sparse. The Asian restaurant Bahor bills itself as offering the “only halal food in Voronezh,” and there are reportedly a couple of grocery stores selling halal meat, one in the city’s central market.
Mosque: While no official mosque has yet been built in Voronezh, Muslims do gather to pray. According to Halalguide.me, there is an informal mosque on Ulitsa Gvardeyskaya.
Qibla: South.

Essentuki

Essentuki, which will host Nigeria in its Pontos Plaza Hotel (pictured), is famous for its health spas and mineral water, so the 'Super Eagles' should at least be able to relax after their games. Muslim visitors may want to drop by Kurortny Park, where the drinking gallery was inspired by Islamic Moorish design.
Halal Food: Hard to find. There is a kebab house that may be able to provide halal options. Otherwise, head to the area around the mosque in nearby Pyatigorsk.
Mosque: The nearest mosque is 25 minutes drive west in Pyatigorsk, on Skvoznoy Pereulok.
Qibla: Southwest.

Kaluga

It’s all about space exploration in the city where Senegal will be based. Space travel pioneer Konstantin Tsiolkovsky taught in Kaluga in his early years. The town’s main attraction — unsurprisingly — is the Tsiolkovsky State Museum of the History of Cosmonautics, reportedly the world’s first space museum. Second billing goes to the rocket scientist’s quaint old wooden family home.
Halal Food: Very hard to find. Asian restaurant Chaikhana and Russian eatery Solyanka (pictured) appear to cater to alternative dietary requirements, and may be worth a call.
Mosque: The town’s main mosque is a converted building off Ulitsa Annenki.
Qibla: South.