As requested by the World Heritage Committee, the State Party provided a progress report on Istanbul dated 30 January 2006 together with supplementary information prepared by the Mayor and Governor of Istanbul.
A joint UNESCO/ICOMOS mission to Istanbul was carried out from 6 to 11 April 2006, upon the request of the Turkish authorities and in response to further information on continuing threats to the site. The mission successfully concluded its technical review of the situation based on an on-site visit and on extensive documentation and meetings with relevant stakeholders. The report including detailed recommendations is available at the following Web address: http://whc.unesco.org/archive/2006.
In conformity with the decisions adopted by the World Heritage Committee at its 28th and 29th session, the Turkish authorities provided a report which was reviewed by the UNESCO/ICOMOS mission taking also into account Decision 29 COM 7C paragraph 5:
a) Urgent completion and enforcement of the Urban Conservation and Development Plan
The Urban Conservation and Development Plans were completed in the period 1995 -2005 and were approved by the Protection Board in 2005. The plans designate new conservation areas within the Historic Peninsula and will be integral tools for conserving the historic environment. Furthermore, the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality has allocated USD 30,075,000 for management projects in the Historic Peninsula, thereby strengthening the Historic Environment Protection Directorate. For projects carried out in 2006 the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the Metropolitan Municipality and the Governorship of Istanbul have each allocated 1 million YTL.
The mission specifically welcomed the newly instituted system of grants now available from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism for cultural heritage conservation projects. Grants at a municipal level for the repair of privately owned historic buildings should also be encouraged.
b) Strengthening of the Istanbul Board of Protection of Cultural Property
The State Party’s report mentioned that a new Protection Board No.4 was created in 2006 to speed up applications for conservation measures and new constructions in the Historic Peninsula, and that Fatih and Eminönü Municipalities have established Heritage Units which will be expanded in the future. These will strengthen the capacity of the district municipalities to fulfil the obligations under the new legislation.
The mission considered that the new conservation legislation (2004) will give considerable powers to the municipalities. Fatih Municipality has recently established a Historical Environment Conservation Directorate and Eminönü Municipality has created a Conservation Bureau, but these are not yet sufficiently strong to fulfil an effective role in managing the property.
c) Develop a more proactive urban management plan
As mentioned in the 2005 report, the regional Conservation Council evaluated the impacts of the project and excavations permitted at Yenikapi and Yedikule stations. Three excavation zones have been identified in the Yenikapi area of which two were completed. Reports on the preservation of ruins and findings have been submitted to the Regional Conservation Council for evaluation. As part of the archaeological mitigation procedures, mosaics and the remains of eight historic ships of the Byzantine-Ottoman periods were discovered. It is planned to display these finds in a new museum. The mission noted with satisfaction that part of the recommendations of UNESCO to the Government of Turkey and the Japan Bank for Cooperation contained in the “Report of the UNESCO Advisory Team on the Marmary Rail Tube Tunnel and Gebze-Halkah Surface Metro System” of December 2003, were implemented for the excavation at Yenikapi and Yedikule. Four archaeological teams have been established.
d) Greater national and local authority participation in the on-going European Union (EU) funded urban conservation and renewal project
Recognizing the threats affecting the historic timber houses, important initiatives have been undertaken during the past year. The UNESCO World Heritage Fund project at Zeyrek has been completed. A special unit “Historical Environment Conservation Directorate” has been established by the Fatih District Municipality. To address conservation problems in other core areas with traditional timber houses, the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality is currently preparing a large-scale restoration project in the area of Süleymaniye.
The mission applauded the successful implementation of the Rehabilitation of Fener and Balat Districts Programme (with funding from the EU secured with the support of UNESCO), and recommended that the authorities should utilize it as a model to implement further community-based regeneration projects in deprived historic districts. The mission further urged Fatih Municipality, as beneficiary, to show increased commitment to the project, including by allocating municipal personnel to benefit from the transfer of experience and know-how. If implementation of the project is not extended beyond 31 October 2006 by the European Commission, Fatih Municipality should make adequate administrative and financial provisions to complete the project so that all 132 houses proposed for rehabilitation can be conserved.
The mission further commended the efforts of the Turkish Timber Association, within the framework of the “Save Our Roofs” Campaign (2003), in implementing repair projects to timber houses in Zeyrek, but noted that serious erosion of traditional urban fabric in Zeyrek and in Süleymaniye has nevertheless continued between 1985 and 2003. No effective measures were taken to reduce the threats to the traditional timber architecture of the four core areas and there was no programme to reduce the number of houses lost through neglect, destruction by fire or reconstruction. The mission urged the authorities to resolve the problems by spending the public funds that are now available to repair further houses, concentrating on in-situ repair (rather than demolition and reconstruction) and the maximum retention of original fabric.
e) Exert greater care in the conservation techniques applied in the consolidation of the Theodosian Walls
The city walls of Istanbul are approx. 20km long in the core area. A Land Conservation Plan was determined in 1987 and by 2002 some parts of the walls had been restored. Consolidation techniques were mostly used and renovation was avoided as much as possible. In order to ensure that the future work on the city walls meets international standards, all restoration tenders have been suspended until conservation standards and procedures have been agreed upon.
The State Party, in their 2006 progress report, also stated “minimum intervention was planned to retain the aesthetic features of the city walls and to preserve the existing remains”. The mission reported, however, that this is not the case. The mission noted serious problems with current and on-going works on the restoration of the Theodosian Land Walls because of the excessive replacement of original fabric and the use of inappropriate restoration techniques which destroys the ‘vertical archaeology’ of the monument and severely compromises its authenticity. It therefore recommended that all work to the walls and the integral Byzantine palaces of Tekfur Seray and Ayvanseray (Blachernae Palace) be immediately halted until the craftspersons and professionals involved have received training, incorporating international experts, on the conservation of ruined monuments.
f) Istanbul Museum-City project
The Museum-City project, managed by an intersectional coordination unit under the Historic Environment Protection Directorate of the Istanbul Municipality, is supervising a pilot project for the restoration of the area between the Süleymaniye Complex and the Sehzade Mosque, which will be extended to the rest of the Historic Peninsula. Infrastructure projects for the Historic Peninsula are also under preparation. A special unit for implementing and supervising the construction activities in the region is being planned.
The mission recommended that the Süleymaniye Renewal Project should be substantially revised to constitute a Conservation Implementation Plan, with a new focus on the conservation of existing buildings of heritage value rather than on new construction and development, and the project boundaries should be extended to cover the whole Süleymaniye World Heritage core area. The Museum City Project should prioritize the core areas and relevant components should be utilized in the preparation of Conservation Implementation Plans for the Zeyrek, Eminönü and the Theodosian City Walls core areas and should identify buildings at risk and seek to find appropriate solutions to secure their future. All Conservation Implementation Plans should comply with the Vienna Memorandum (May 2005). Relevant elements of current proposals, including the Zeyrek Area Study, the Ayvansaray Turkish Quarter Urban Renewal Area Studies, the Anemas Dungeon Restoration, the Tekfur Palace Restoration proposals and the Cankurtaran and Sultanahmet Implementation for Conservation plans should be incorporated in the Conservation Implementation Plans for the relevant core area, following comprehensive revision for in-situ conservation.
g) Law on Conservation of Cultural and Natural Wealth (Law No 5226) of 2004
As stated in the report of 2005, the Law No 5226 had been amended and accepted. A new legislation on the “Preservation by Renovation and Utilisation by Revitalisation of Deteriorated Immovable Historical and Cultural Properties” came into force on 16 June 2005. These laws, together with related regulations, provide a more efficient technical and administrative tool in the field of conservation for the central Government and local authorities. It is believed that it will enhance public participation and state support for conservation of historical properties.
The mission welcomed the recent improvement in Protective Legislation, but noted that implementation lags behind. The District Municipalities lack capacity to implement responsibilities that the new laws will confer on them and Fatih and Eminönü Municipalities should ensure that their respective Conservation Offices have qualified professional staff to adequately safeguard the integrity of the core areas.
h) Other projects
Golden Horn Bridge: Since July 2005 the Regional Conservation Council has decided that a third bridge is to be constructed. The draft project has been evaluated and approved by the Council and the implementation project is requested from the Municipality. Furthermore, the mission expressed concern about the potential impact of the proposed extension project for the Four Seasons Hotel on the archaeological remains of part of the Great Palace of the Byzantine Emperors located in the core zone; impacts of the new Golden Horn bridge projects on the setting of Süleymaniye Mosque and the wider World Heritage property and of other new development projects such as the “Dubai Towers” and the proposed high-rise development at Hydarpaşa and the Galataport project. The mission made specific recommendations in this regard in their detailed mission report (http://whc.unesco.org/archive/2006).