KALININGRAD, Russia (AP) — Lonely Planet calls it “hideous.” FIFA describes it as “classic Soviet architecture.”
The locals, on the other hand, call it “The Monster” or the “Buried Robot,” believing it looks like the head of a giant robot entombed up to its shoulders.
Dom Sovietov — the House of Soviets — has a brooding presence that looms large over the FIFA fan zone in this Russian outpost near the Baltic coast. It lives up to its name, conjuring up images of the drab communist-era concrete apartment blocks.
This week, it has united opposing World Cup fans.
“It’s a bit of an eyesore,” said Ian Musgrave, a fan from England.
“It’s a dull building,” added Stef Van Rossem, who is from Belgium. “At least they put some banners around it.”
Built on a downtown square that used to house a medieval castle when Kaliningrad was the German city of Koenigsberg, the 21-floor structure has been spruced up slightly for the World Cup with scaffolding around its base festooned with FIFA images and welcome messages in Russian and English. A blue band has been wrapped around the building midway up.
In a way, it’s a reversal of the unwanted phenomenon of sporting venues being left to fall into disrepair after major events like World Cups and Olympics. This is an existing white elephant getting a new lease on life, if only briefly as an imposing backdrop.
Supporters can’t actually go inside the building, but they can gaze up at it while ordering a beer or soda from one of the fan zone’s concession stands.
Construction was started on what was to be a local administrative headquarters around 1970, but never completed and the building was never used.
After standing for years as a derelict concrete shell, it got a lick of blue paint and windows when the city celebrated its 750th birthday back in 2005, but beyond that it serves mainly as a canvas for local graffiti artists.
“It’s a good area for the fan zone,” Musgrave said as he looked up at the hulking tower. “They couldn’t move the building, unfortunately.”
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