1.         Historic Centre of Riga (Latvia) (C 852)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1997

Criteria  (i)(ii)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger  N/A

Previous Committee Decisions  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/852/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1996-2002)
Total amount approved: USD 108,500
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/852/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount provided to the property: France-UNESCO co-operation Convention expertise missions in 2002, 2004, 2005 - 11,500 Euros

Previous monitoring missions

UNESCO/ICOMOS site visit in 2003; France-UNESCO co-operation missions 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 World Heritage Centre site visits;

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

a) High-rise building projects located in the buffer zone threating the visual integrity of the property;

b) Regulations for building permissions and guidelines for new construction projects within Riga and its buffer zone

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/852/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2007

As requested by the Committee at its 29th session (Durban, 2005), the State Party provided a report dated 24 January 2007 on the state of conservation of the Historic Centre of Riga including the progress made with regard to the implementation of the Committee’s decision.

In September 2005, after a series of revisions requested by the State Inspection, the Riga City Council City Development Department introduced to the public the third draft of the Preservation and Development Plan of the Historic Centre of Riga (and its buffer zone). The Inspection approved the Plan with some provisions to be implemented, in particular, on the setting of the location of high rise buildings in the buffer zone in order to maintain the visual integrity of the Historic Centre. On 7 February 2006 the Riga City Council adopted the Preservation and Development Plan and the Building Regulations for the Historic Centre of Riga and its buffer zone. The Inspection adopted the Plan with the condition that a “Conception Project” on the development of the left bank of the river Daugava be developed.

The Riga City Council City Development Department and the Bureau of the Riga City Architect subsequently completed the requested Conception Project, defined as the regulatory document for urban development on the left bank of the river Daugava and containing the plan that determines the construction height permitted in the buffer zone. The Conception Project mentioned that proposals will be prepared for amendments to the already adopted (2004) Regulations No. 127 of the Cabinet of Ministers, which limits the height of the high-rise buildings in the buffer zone on the left bank of the river Daugava to 121 metres, in order to allow the construction of even higher buildings. It should be noted that this Conception Project does not concern already planned construction projects, accepted preliminary or technical projects, or architectural design competitions where the winner has been designated. The State Inspection has not approved the Conception Project, arguing that in Riga historically the churches were the main vertical accents and that without appropriate maximum height limitations, the Historic Centre of Riga could be surrounded by high-rise buildings diminishing the character of the property.

The State Party report also contains visual impact studies carried out in 2006 by the State Inspection on the impact of planned high-rise buildings in the buffer zone on the Historic Centre of Riga, and concluded that there is a need for specific law provision for the height limitations. In July 2006, after the Committee session, on invitation of the National Authorities, the Director of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre undertook a brief visit to Riga to discuss with the authorities the plan for the demolition of a 1980s skyscraper building located in Republikas Square 2 (northern buffer zone) in the framework of the Law on the Protection of Cultural monuments (1992), allowing for assigning the status of “environment degrading object” to such a building. However, the final decision on this matter will be taken after further discussions with relevant experts and after an International Seminar scheduled from 16 to 17 April 2007. During the site visit, the Director expressed his concerns regarding the high-rise development projects inside and outside the buffer zone.

In November 2006, a Latvian delegation composed of the Chief Architect of Riga, Head of the State Inspection for Heritage Protection and Secretary General of the Latvian National Commission for UNESCO came to the World Heritage Centre. The delegation informed the Centre about the revised concepts of the silhouette development of the left side of the river Daugava. While appreciating the initiative, the World Heritage Centre expressed its serious concern about inappropriate urban development in the buffer zone of the Historic Centre and stressed that the proposed high-rise buildings in the buffer zone would not be the best possible solution for the area of Ķīpsala and could seriously endanger the status of the Historic Centre of Riga as a World Heritage property. Despite the quality of the analysis presented, and appropriate planning tools used (i.e. skyline studies; viewpoint analysis; historic character analysis and mapping per protected neighbourhood), these planning tools seem to be applied only to justify proposed plans for high-rise constructions, notably in the buffer zone, instead of being used to determine appropriate location, type and form of development.

On the other hand, the results of the Riga Concert Hall competition, judged by a jury with the participation of a UNESCO-ICOMOS expert, are to be commended.

The State Party report further mentioned that the legal enactments and the new Preservation and Development Plan provide for examination of all projects in the Historic Centre of Riga and its buffer zone. These measures are to ensure that all new buildings fully respect the visual integrity of the Historic Centre of Riga that the historical water courses are preserved as open public spaces, and that no new constructions are built. In addition, a regional seminar and workshop on “High-rise Buildings and Historic Centre (in the Baltic Countries)” was organised by the World Heritage Centre and ICCROM from 7 to 8 December 2006 in Vilnius, Lithuania, and was attended by a representative of the Latvian State Inspection.

Furthermore, the State Inspection for Heritage protection of Latvia organized an international seminar on the Preservation and Development of Historic centers of towns (16 -17 April 2007, Riga) attended by local and international experts including representatives from the Council of Europe and UNESCO. The outcome of the seminar and the site visits stressed that utmost attention should be given to the continuity between the city’s silhouette, the river Daugava and its two banks. The value of Riga as a World Heritage property lies in the relationship between these elements. In order to preserve the visual integrity of this exceptional urban landscape, it is absolutely necessary to opt for an integrated approach to any urban development projects for the city based on these values and a clear vision for the city’s future. In that regard, the seminar concluded that high rise buildings are incompatible for the property (core, buffer zone and beyond) and thus the ongoing high rise projects and constructions on the left bank of the river threaten the values of the property.

In a letter dated 12 April 2007, the State Inspection for heritage protection informed the World Heritage Centre of the latest visualization of the revised concept project for the proposed development of the left side of the river Daugava and requests UNESCO’s assistance to evaluate this document.

Whilst the World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS appreciate the updated information received, they remain extremely concerned that the previous Decisions of the Committee concerning high-rise development on the left bank of the river Daugava have not been taken into account by the State Party. 

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM

N/A

Decision Adopted: 31 COM 7B.99

The World Heritage Committee,

1.       Having examined Document WHC-07/31.COM/7B,

2.       Recalling its Decisions 28 COM 15B.74 and 29 COM 7B.78, adopted at its 28th (Suzhou, 2004) and 29th (Durban, 2005) sessions respectively,

3.       Acknowledges the information provided by the Latvian authorities on the adoption of the Preservation and Development Plan and the Building Regulations for the Historic Centre of Riga and its buffer zone, as well as on progress made in the “Conception Project” for regulating development of the left bank of the river Daugava;

4.       Notes the State Inspection efforts for the on-going visual impact analysis of planned high-rise buildings in the buffer zone and urges the State Party to fully implement its results in order to prevent any negative impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property and its buffer zone, as well as on important views to and from the property;

5.       Also urges the State Party to further reinforce the current law on the preservation and protection of the Historic Centre of Riga by limiting the height of new constructions in the World Heritage core and buffer zones, and beyond, if necessary, in order to limit negative visual impacts on the Historic Centre’s landscape;

6.       Further urges the State Party, in close co-operation with the City authorities, to reinforce upstream planning and to carefully review all current and future projects in the core area and its buffer zone, and in particular to halt ongoing high rise projects and further inappropriate planning for the left side of the river Daugava, until a thorough and independent analysis of potential impacts on the values,  authenticity and integrity of the Historic Centre has been undertaken and the “Conception Project” has been thoroughly revised;

7.       Requests the State Party to undertake an overall visual impact study of the property and its setting in order to provide a framework for proposed new developments to ensure that they fully respect the Outstanding Universal Value of the property;

8.       Also requests the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission to assess the state of conservation of the property,including the archaeological values of the site, in particular with regard to the proposed new development projects in the buffer zone on the left bank of the river Daugava;

9.       Further requests the State Party to submit a report to the World Heritage Centre by 1 February 2008 on progress made with the “Conception Project” for the left side of the river Daugava, and to provide details on any projects which may have an impact on the visual integrity of the property, for examination by the Committee at its 32nd session in 2008 in view of the possibility of inclusion of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger.