1.         Historic Areas of Istanbul (Turkey) (C 356bis)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1985

Criteria  (i)(ii)(iii)(iv)

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/356/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1986-2004)
Total amount approved: USD 452,208
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/356/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount provided to the property: USD 211,900 (Conservation of Hagia Sophia); USD 36,686.30 (Convention France-UNESCO); USD 155,000 (in the framework of the International Safeguarding Campaign for Istanbul and Göreme).

Previous monitoring missions

2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004: World Heritage Centre missions, April 2006, May 2008, March 2009: World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS reactive monitoring missions

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

a) Continued degradation of the vernacular architecture within the protected zones (particularly Ottoman-period timber houses in the Zeyrek and Süleymaniye core areas);

b) Quality of repairs and reconstruction of the Roman and Byzantine Walls and associated palace structures, including Tekfur Saray and the "Anemas Dungeon" (Blachernae Palace);

c) Uncontrolled development and absence of a World Heritage management plan;

d) Lack of coordination between national and municipal authorities and of decision-making bodies for safeguarding World Heritage at the site;

e) Potential impacts of new buildings and new development projects on the World Heritage site mainly within the framework of Law 5366, and the lack of impact studies before large-scale developments are implemented;

f) Potential impact of the proposed new metro bridge across the Golden Horn.

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/356/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2011

On 7 February 2011, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report.

a) Management plan development

The State Party submitted an outline of the draft Istanbul Management Plan prepared by three universities and a private consultant (an architect's firm). At this stage it appears that this draft does not yet reflect the complexity of the urban property, or set out a management system that might bring together all the key stakeholders to agree upon appropriate constraints and mechanisms to ensure that the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) is sustained. Furthermore, the draft plan does not relate the management of the property to the fact that some 40% of the overall historic peninsula had been declared as urban renewal zones, including nearly all the shores of the historic peninsula that reflect the essential links between the inscribed property and its maritime development.There appears to be limited guidance in the draft on how to deal with the impact of major transport and infrastructure works on the historic fabric, the historic peninsula and its setting. The urban conservation of the neighbourhoods of Suleymaniye, Zeyrek and others in Fatih does not seem to have been fully considered in relation to major proposed 'regeneration' schemes: clear policies for the neighbourhoods – the last surviving examples of urban quarters from the Ottoman period – have not been included. There is also an absence of tourism policies for the historic peninsula, of policies related to maintaining the integrity of the property, and of policies for protecting key views and silhouettes.

However, on 17 March 2011 the State Party informed the World Heritage Centre that further progress had been made on the finalisation of the management plan. The State Party submitted a more detailed copy of the first draft in Turkish on 15 April 2011. They also clarified that the management plan will be applicable to the whole Historic Peninsula, in compliance with Turkish legislation which stipulates its status as a conservation site. On 22 April 2011, the State Party informed the World Heritage Centre that the text of the management plan had been modified according to the comments of the “Consultative Board”. And on 5 May 2011, the State Party reported that this ‘final’ draft had been further discussed by the Istanbul Site Management Authority. On 16 May 2011, shortly before the finalization of this document, the State Party submitted to the World Heritage Centre the new version of the draft management plan, dated April 2011, in Turkish. The Coordination and Monitoring Board will further study the revised draft and it is anticipated that approval will follow shortly.

The Visual Impact Assessment (VIA) report for the Golden Horn Metro Bridge commissioned by the Turkish authorities (see (h) below) commented on numerous communication deficiencies in the management structure, both with the World Heritage Centre and between the authorities themselves. It also points out that existing protection areas beyond the inscribed property related to its visual integrity are not integrated into the management plan, while other parts of the setting such as Kasimpasa and Uskadar are neither integrated into the plan, nor protected. It stresses the need for the historic peninsula to be protected as part of its wider landscape, as the urban areas of Eyup, Beyoglu/Galata and Uskudur (Asian peninsula) and the Princess islands in the Sea of Marmara, contribute to its overall value and “should be incorporated into the property management system as quickly as possible”. This is to ensure that future development measures are compatible with the OUV.

b) Ottoman Houses Rehabilitation Strategy / Programme

The State Party reports on a number of ongoing restoration projects in Suleymaniye and Zeyrek districts. The implementation of a “Repair of Timber Houses Program”, which aims to sponsor and provide technical assistance to buildings owners, is mentioned in the State Party report, but no further information is provided.

c) Urban Renewal Projects and Impact Assessments

A letter of the Director-General of Cultural Heritage and Museums requesting to avoid any major projects that might impact on the OUV of the World Heritage properties and would need to be notified to the World Heritage Centre in line with Paragraph 172 of Operational Guidelines, has been sent to all authorities involved with World Heritage or Tentative List sites. On Urban Renewal projects, the State Party confirms that cultural values and spatial characteristics of the concerned areas are taken into account.

d) Retrospective Statement of Outstanding Universal Value

The State Party also submitted a draft retrospective Statement of OUV. This will be examined by the World Heritage Committee under Item 8 of the Agenda (Document WHC-11/35.COM/8E).

e) Traffic Plan

No specific information has been provided. However the Visual Impact study for the Golden Horn metro bridge (see (h) below) comments on the existing transport strategy and on the fact that traffic studies show that the current network planning will not suffice to meet future requirements.

f) Marmaray Rail tube Tunnel Project

The State Party did not submit new information on this project, e.g. on the impact of stations on the historic landscape.

g) Bosphorus Transition Tunnel Project for Motor Vehicles

The State Party states that the project was approved in principle in October 2010, and enclosed an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment for the Eurasia Tunnel Project.

The impact assessment study does not include a specific assessment of the impact on the attributes of the OUV of the property. It does however conclude that “the project is close to the UNESCO listed historic peninsula of Istanbul. The potential exists for the project to have both direct and indirect impacts on this internationally important cultural site during construction and operation of the project”. It points out that design changes have been made so that “no structure exceeds approximately 6 m above existing ground-level and all are below the line of the old sea walls and the city beyond them so that no structure intrudes into the view of the old city. Key design revisions include reducing the height of the Operations Building to a single storey structure and the removal of signage on the toll plaza”. It further states that contact with the World Heritage Centre should be maintained during the construction period. According to the State Party, this project will reduce the volume of traffic within the historic peninsula, although a few roads will have a small increase in traffic.

h) Golden Horn Metro Bridge Heritage Impact Assessment

The State Party has submitted a VIA report of the Golden Horn Metro Bridge, commissioned from a group of independent experts from Aachen University in consultation with an international steering committee. The State Party has also submitted a separate report by another international expert team, entitled Historical and Visual Impact Assessment (HVIA). This study is part of a research doctorate at Nuova Gorica University and the IUAV University in Venice. Both studies were commissioned by the Metropolitan Municipality of Istanbul.

The authors of the VIA report acknowledge that the study was unusual in being carried out after tenders had been agreed for the bridge, construction work had started on the pylons and the metro lines were already in place at either end.

The VIA report considered the potential impact on the OUV of the property of a cable stay Metro Bridge supported by two 65 m pylons and with a metro station near the centre. The impact analysis is said to have been undertaken in conformity with the ICOMOS Guidelines on Heritage Impact Assessments for World Heritage cultural properties and based on the OUV. The 2010 draft retrospective Statement of OUV was apparently not used. The VIA confirms the very large scale of the proposed bridge and the sensitivity of its proposed location across the Golden Horn. Various images included in the VIA show the potential impact of the bridge on the OUV of the property. It is concluded that from some views the pylons compete with the Suleimaniye Mosque minaret on the skyline, and that the deck of the bridge adds a new element to the city’s silhouette that ‘has to be classified as a grave impact on the city skyline’. Furthermore, the deck of the bridge is above the height of other bridges and its presence ‘changes the historic urban landscape significantly’, and has a ‘severe impact on the sensitive shoreline’. It was also pointed out in a preliminary text that the proposed bridge would gravely alter visual relationships from high points in the historic peninsula and Beyoglu/Galata and alter significantly the overall impression of the historic landscape. Overall, it stated that the bridge structure would impair the cityscape across the entire heartland of the Golden Horn and would have severe negative effects on the OUV of the property.

In order to mitigate this impact, the VIA experts, in collaboration with the Steering Committee, convened a workshop to consider modifications to the bridge with advice from structural engineers. A discussion of revisions was undertaken within extreme constraints - the already existing foundations for the pylons, the need to minimise the number of supports to reduce costs, the need to optimise the flow of water and use the completed metro lines at either end. The possible modifications were therefore limited to adjustments of the height of the pylons, down to 48 m, to slight reduction of the width of the pylons, to changes to the glass structure of the metro station to make it lighter, and to modifications of the viaduct arrangements at either end.

A further VIA was then undertaken on the revised designs. It suggested a reduced impairment of the view from some high and low level points, although at lower level there will still be significant adverse change and the proposed viaducts will lead to considerable disturbance of the urban fabric. Furthermore noise pollution could be severe. However, this issue could not be addressed due to lack of time.

Further, the VIA recommended that the link between the Historic Peninsula and the water, which has had a decisive role in the development of Istanbul, should be reflected in the Statement of OUV, and that the waterfront zones proposed as “urban renewal zones” in the draft management plan should be considered extremely carefully.

Overall the experts carrying out the VIA considered that the recommendations for the modifications of the bridge were no more than initial steps, and that further development of this project should be guided by some kind of Expert Panel tasked to also consider the wider development and management of the Historic Peninsula and particularly further infrastructural projects.

The proposed bridge had been approved in 2005, but was first considered by the Committee in 2006, when it requested an impact study in conformity with international standards. In spite of many repeated requests for impact studies to consider also alternatives to a cable-stay bridge, the independent impact study was not carried out until 2010, by which time all necessary permissions were in place and construction had started. The work has been put on hold in August 2010, in line with the recommendations of the 34th session of the Committee.

The second report entitled Historical and Visual Impact Assessment suggests a series of indicators for understanding projects and their context, such as visual, functional, significances, etc. On the basis of these it suggests ways of achieving a preliminary impact assessment for the Golden Horn Bridge, based on ICOMOS Guidance.

It suggests that any analysis must start with an assessment of the current state of buildings, monuments, infrastructures, etc., aimed at defining the visual, historical, functional, symbolic, perceptive elements, but that currently the information needs to be gathered from maps and other sources, as much of this data is not available in the absence of the management plan. The analysis then needs to identify views with meaning and the various options interrogated for their impact.

On 15 April 2011, the State Party informed the World Heritage Centre that the Turkish authorities have made modifications to the design of the bridge in accordance with the conclusions of the two impact assessment studies. They stated that the cable stay structure will be lowered to 47 m, two thirds of the metro station structure has been cancelled, the diameter of the bridge pylons have been reduced to 8,5 m, the curved suspension cables reduced to 17 cm and that transparent sound prevention panels and landscape projects have been added (although no details of these have been provided).

i) Awareness raising

The State Party further informed the World Heritage Centre on 26 April 2011 about the Turkish translation of the ICOMOS Guidance on heritage impact assessments for Cultural World Heritage properties, for dissemination in a circular letter among the relevant authorities to guide the process of future project evaluation. In addition, the World Heritage Centre has been informed of a non-profit campaign entitled “We should not ignore it!” by a major private media group aimed at raising awareness and engaging citizens and local communities in the protection of cultural heritage in Turkey. 

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

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies take note of the detailed VIA carried out for the Golden Horn Metro Bridge based on the ICOMOS Guidance and particularly its conclusion that the proposed bridge would have a significant adverse impact on what the VIA report describes as “the almost pristine urban landscape of Istanbul that represents a priceless treasure that is closely interlinked with the values and attributes of the World Heritage property”.

The VIA was conducted in difficult circumstances, some five years after the location of the bridge was agreed and after work on its construction had already started. In recognising its adverse impact, there was little room for manoeuvre within which mitigation measures could be identified. Within their extremely narrow confines, the experts have recommended that the height of the bridge pylons be reduced and that the roof of the metro station be made lighter, to which the State Party has now agreed. The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies note that the report acknowledges that the proposed changes will not remove the overall negative impact but could mitigate it to an extent, from some views, and slightly improve the impact of the viaducts at either end of the bridge.

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies note that, notwithstanding the fact that the World Heritage Committee had discussed the conservation of the property at its 27th, 28th, 29th, 30th, 31st, 32nd, 33rd and 34th sessions (from 2003 to 2010), this major project was not brought to the attention of the World Heritage Committee at the earliest possible stage, and that work was only halted after recommendations made at the 34th session.

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies recommend that the World Heritage Committee highlight this regrettable situation reflecting the serious communication discontinuities within the management and planning authorities in Istanbul, the lack of adequate communication with the World Heritage Centre, the lack of overall traffic management strategy and the lack of an agreed and robust management plan for the property. They recall that the World Heritage Committee has repeatedly expressed concerns during the past seven sessions over legislative arrangements and the absence of a protective buffer zone.

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies take note of the fact that a management plan is being prepared and its final version has still to be submitted by the authorities. They consider that the draft outline as submitted in February 2011 does not sufficiently address the complex, multi-disciplinary needs of the city. The plan needs further development in order to define a structured and coordinated management approach, with clear roles and responsibilities, to ensure an effective management system for the property’s historic urban landscape, taking into account the complexity and the size of the property, its manifold challenges, as well as the need for inputs from a wide range of stakeholders, both public and private. To achieve this, there is a need to form active partnerships between all relevant authorities, citizens and stakeholder groups. The management plan should reflect the development of a protection and planning framework that is based on a thorough analysis of the heritage assets that sustain the OUV. Also, the Plan needs to be supported by Traffic and Tourism Plans to ensure a synergy between the ways the various needs of, and demands on, the property are addressed in the context of sustaining the OUV.

They also note that even the currently planned proposals for transport improvements, including the planned Bosphorus Transition Tunnel Project for Motor Vehicles and the Marmaray Bosphorus Rail tube Tunnel Project are not considered adequate for providing an overall sustainable transport system for the city, as acknowledged in the VIA report. The Management Plan should also address the wider setting of the property and particularly the strategic link between the land and the water. They recommend that the World Heritage Committee indicate the need for a protective buffer zone to be put in place to acknowledge the symbiotic relationships between the property and its setting and the property and its skyline. This issue, and that of integrated management and planning, has not been addressed despite the requests of the World Heritage Committee at previous sessions.

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies are of the view that the proposed Golden Horn Bridge, even if modified as suggested, would have a negative impact on the OUV. Despite the fact that the bridge is joining existing metro lines and work has started on the piles (although now halted) and that there appears to be extremely limited room to make changes to the overall structure, they nevertheless stress that every effort should be made to consider what further mitigations might be possible, taking up the suggestion of an independent expert Advisory Panel, as put forward by the experts who conducted the VIA.

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies further stress that the bridge project is symptomatic of the wide range of threats to the property, identified in World Heritage Committee reports over the past seven years, that have not been systematically addressed through the development of a coordinated management system, coordinated conservation strategies, specific development strategies, including for traffic and tourism, as requested by the World Heritage Committee, and thus the whole property is vulnerable to constant, persistent and wide-ranging threats. 

Decision Adopted: 35 COM 7B.111

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-11/35.COM/7B.Add,

2. Recalling Decisions 32 COM 7B.11, 33 COM 7B.124 and 34 COM 7B.102 adopted at its 32nd (Quebec City, 2008), 33rd (Seville, 2009) and 34th (Brasilia, 2010) sessions respectively,

3. Recognises the efforts of the State Party in the preparation of the detailed Impact Assessments for the Golden Horn Bridge carried out by international experts on the basis of the ICOMOS guidance and acknowledges with concern the conclusions that the bridge design it had considered at its last session would have a grave and detrimental impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property;

4. Notes the proposed minor changes to the design of the bridge proposed by the experts, in particular reducing the height of the pylons and amending the cover of the metro station which could have some beneficial improvements on the impact from certain views; but expresses its great concern that the bridge, even if amended as proposed, would nevertheless still have an overall negative impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property;

5. Deeply regrets that the bridge was approved in principle in 2005 without any referral to the World Heritage Centre, not in compliance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, and that its alignment has been fixed by work on metro tunnels on either end, and that further substantial amendments to its alignment and design appear to be almost impossible;

6. Also regrets the lack of adequate communication and the lack of adequate responses to its recommendations on the bridge and on the need for conservation plans, an effective management system, development strategies for traffic and tourism, and a buffer zone;

7. Acknowledges the efforts of the State Party in the preparation of a draft management plan but considers that the submitted outline of the draft plan falls short of the wide ranging, multi-disciplinary and effective document that is needed, and should be further developed to set out an effective protection and conservation framework and a robust management system that will involve relevant stakeholders, encourage dialogue between authorities and involve citizens and their interest groups and adequately responds to the major challenges that face the historic urban landscape of the city;

8. Also acknowledges the information of the State Party on the progress of approval of the management plan and requests the State Party to submit the final version of the fully developed management plan as approved by the authorities in English or French by 1 October 2011, to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies;

9. Recommends that the State Party appoint an independent expert Advisory Committee for the property, in consultation with the World Heritage Centre, to advise on the development of a strategic framework for infrastructural development and conservation, to guide the management of the property, and to also consider all ways possible to mitigate the impacts of the Golden Horn Bridge;

10. Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2012, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and on the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 36th session in 2012.

Decision Adopted: 35 COM 8E

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-11/35.COM/8E,

2. Adopts the retrospective Statements of Outstanding Universal Value, as presented in the Annex I of Document WHC-11/35.COM/8E, for the following World Heritage properties:

3. Decides that retrospective Statements of Outstanding Universal Value for World Heritage properties in Danger will be reviewed in priority;

4. Further decides that, considering the high number of retrospective Statements of Outstanding Universal Value to be examined, the order in which they will be reviewed will follow the Second Cycle of Periodic Reporting, namely: