State of Conservation
Historic Centre of Vienna
Factors affecting the property in 2017*
- Legal framework
- Major visitor accommodation and associated infrastructure
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
- Housing: High-rise construction projects in Central Vienna (proposed Vienna Ice-Skating Club – Intercontinental Hotel – Vienna Konzerthaus project)
- Major visitor accommodation and associated infrastructure: High-rise construction project of Vienna Main Train Station
- Legal framework: Lack of effectiveness of the overall governance of the property
- Legal framework: Lack of appropriateness of planning controls in the ‘High-Rise Concept 2014’ and the ‘Glacis Master Plan’
International Assistance: requests for the property until 2017
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved : 0 USD
Missions to the property until 2017**
March 2006: Joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission to the “Palace and Gardens of Schönbrunn”; September 2012: Joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission to the “Palace and Gardens of Schönbrunn” and “Historic Centre of Vienna”; November 2015: ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission to “Historic Centre of Vienna”
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2017
On 2 February 2017, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report, available at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1033/documents, which summarizes actions taken in response to Decision 40 COM 7B.49 and responds to third party information received by the World Heritage Centre from June 2016 to April 2017 and transmitted to the State Party, as follows:
- The design of the Vienna Ice-Skating Club – Intercontinental Hotel – Vienna Konzerthaus has been revised; the height of the residential component has been reduced from 75m to 66.3m and the area occupied by the high-rise component has also been limited, recognizing that the projected high-rise would negatively impact the visual integrity and Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property, including the visual axis from the Upper Belvedere Palace;
- The City of Vienna intends to analyze the existing urban planning instruments, particularly the ‘High-Rise Concept’ and ‘Glacis Masterplan’ in order to clarify, whether they take sufficient account of the protection of the OUV of the property and if necessary to make required modifications;
- There is a current proposed project involving substantial changes to two buildings in the Karlsplatz-area: Wien Museum and Zurich Cosmos Insurance/Winterthur Building. These buildings date from the second half of the 20th century and are located in the eastern area of the square in the vicinity of the baroque "Karlskirche". The City of Vienna has indicated that the planning process has considered the visual and spatial qualities of the "Karlskirche" and advises that the reshaped buildings will not negatively impact on the appearance of the historic ensemble, as the maximum height will not exceed the deck-edge of the "Karlskirche" and there are no protrusions proposed. Responding to concerns about the historic roofscape expressed by the 2012 mission, a study on historic roof constructions in the Historic Centre of Vienna is being undertaken by the Federal Monuments Authority in collaboration with the City of Vienna. The study focus is baroque roof constructions with the aim of providing comprehensive information on their current condition and subsequently developing instruments for their safeguarding.
The State Party subsequently provided additional visualizations for the projects in the Karlsplatz-Area and on 10 April 2017 submitted a Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) for the Vienna Ice-Skating Club – Intercontinental Hotel – Vienna Konzerthaus project. ICOMOS has undertaken a technical review of this additional information.
On 5 May 2017, the State Party informed the World Heritage Centre that the City Council of Vienna passed a resolution clarifying the planning instruments for urban development. According to this resolution, urban planning measures for the necessary further evolution of the city centre of Vienna shall not compromise the authenticity of the property and shall ensure that no new locations will be decreed for high-rise buildings and no further storeys shall be added to existing high-rise buildings in the 1st municipal district “Innere Stadt” nor being planned or decreed. The State Party has clarified that this resolution would not prevent the Vienna Ice-Skating Club – Intercontinental Hotel – Vienna Konzerthaus from proceeding, as this project would be located outside the 1st municipal district, within the area covered by the Glacis Master Plan and the area’s suitability for high-rise construction was determined prior to the new Council resolution.
Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2017
The changes made to the Vienna Ice-Skating Club – Intercontinental Hotel – Vienna Konzerthaus project are insufficient to comply with both the 2015 mission recommendations and the subsequent Committee Decision 40 COM 7B.49. The minimal reduction of height by 8.7m (from 75m to 66.3m) and amended footprint of the residential component are negligible compared to the total project height, number of storeys and building volume. This project is not prevented by the resolution of the City Council of Vienna dated 5 May and could proceed if the Council were to create the necessary legal basis.
Visualizations of the revised and rescaled Inter-Continental Hotel project provided in the recently-submitted HIA demonstrate that the proposed buildings would still have a substantive inappropriate negative visual impact on both the close context (being an integral part of the World Heritage property), and on the vistas on the property when observed from significant distant points, particularly the Belvedere Gardens. The HIA does not acknowledge the substantial adverse effects that the revised project would have on the OUV of the property.
The precedent set by other recent high-rise buildings in the surrounding area, does not, as suggested, justify the construction of any new high-rise building that could have a negative impact on the OUV of the property. The argument that the new facility has merit because it will “enhance Vienna as capital of music” provides no substantive justification. Any decision by the City Council of Vienna to approve the land use and development, thus creating the legal basis for implementing the revised project, would be pre-emptive and inappropriate at this time and inconsistent with the Committee’s request that the State Party halt further approvals for high-rise projects.
Despite previous indications that the problematic planning controls would be analyzed, there has been no substantive action taken to repeal or amend them, although the City Council of Vienna has very recently passed a resolution which seeks to ensure no new high-rise locations, in addition to the existing ones, will be decreed within the property. This resolution does not cover areas outside the 1st municipal district, does not reverse high-rise locations previously determined and, without actual change to the planning controls themselves, could be reversed in future by another resolution of the City Council of Vienna. Therefore, while recognizing that the resolution addresses the Committee’ concerns, it does not fulfill the Committee’s specific request. The urgency of this issue was clearly articulated in the 2015 Reactive Monitoring mission report, which highlighted that these tools, could lead to “a serious deterioration of its architectural and town-planning coherence, a serious loss of morphological integrity”, and result in damage to OUV.
The Karlskirche is a major Baroque period work within the property. In its vicinity, there are two buildings for which large extensions are planned. Graphic and photographic documents submitted to date do not adequately evaluate these proposed projects and their potential impact on the Karlskirche and the surrounding urban context. Additional visual simulations of the planned interventions as observed from ground level are required to understand precisely and evaluate their potential impact on the Karlskirche and Karlsplatz and on the OUV. There is no basis for the assumption that the new built forms will be appropriate because the maximum heights do not exceed the “deck edge of the Karlskirche”.
The study on historic roof constructions in the Historic Centre of Vienna is a welcome initiative, which seeks to address an important, but neglected, aspect of the property, highlighted in the 2012 and 2015 mission reports, in the light of adverse changes to the historic roofscapes over recent decades. It is therefore recommended that the Committee request the State Party to adopt a moratorium on projects that involve any modification of the roofscape of the Historic Centre until the study has been completed.
The OUV of the property remains in danger from lawfully designed and constructed buildings that are permitted by the existing planning controls; particularly the ‘High-Rise Concept’ and ‘Glacis Masterplan’. The current Vienna Ice-Skating Club – Intercontinental Hotel – Vienna Konzerthaus was conceived within the parameters allowed by these controls. Furthermore, retention of the OUV of the property must encompass more than the identification of those visual axes and visual links, which have particular significance to the city-scape.
Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2017
Draft Decision: 41 COM 7B.42
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Document WHC/17/41.COM/7B.Add,
- Recalling Decisions 39 COM 7B.94 and 40 COM 7B.49, adopted at its 39th (Bonn, 2015) and 40th (Istanbul/UNESCO, 2016) sessions respectively,
- Also recalling the concerns expressed by the 2012 mission regarding the critical level of urban development reached since inscription and its cumulative impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property, the need for new tools to guide the development process towards sustainable development that protects the attributes of the OUV, and the specific recommendations of the 2015 mission to the property,
- Noting the information provided by the State Party including design changes and a Heritage Impact Assessment for the proposed Vienna Ice-Skating Club – Intercontinental Hotel – Vienna Konzerthaus project, the resolution of the City Council of Vienna dated 5th May 2017, the intention to analyze and review existing urban planning instruments, and the advice regarding proposed projects in the the Karlsplatz-area,
- Welcomes the study on historic roof constructions in the Historic Centre of Vienna by the Federal Monuments Authority in collaboration with the City of Vienna, and requests the State Party to adopt a moratorium on projects that involve any modification of the roofscapes within the property, until the study has been completed;
- Notes with regret that the changes made to the proposed Vienna Ice-Skating Club – Intercontinental Hotel – Vienna Konzerthaus project do not comply with the previous requests of the Committee, and that the proposed project remains inconsistent with the recommendations of the 2012 and 2015 missions and would adversely affect the OUV of the property if implemented in its current form, and therefore reiterates its requests to the State Party to submit a further revised design to the World Heritage Centre, for review by the Advisory Bodies, before any decisions are made regarding its implementation, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;
- Reiterating its concern that the High-Rise Concept abolishes exclusion zones for high-rise buildings in the Vienna urban areas, without having applied appropriate instruments of control for height, volume and urban density respecting the OUV of the property, and that the Glacis Master Plan permits the construction of buildings of a scale that would have an adverse impact on the urban form and character of the Glacis area, expresses its regret that these instruments have not been repealed or substantially amended, and therefore also reiterates its request to the State Party to facilitate the preparation of revised planning rules and guidelines, which:
- Establish parameters for the urban density as well as specific standards for building height and volume for the property and buffer zone,
- Safeguard the urban morphology that is an essential attribute of the property,
- Encourage sustainable development in the property and its buffer zone in harmony with its OUV,
- Require that all high-rise projects are evaluated through a comprehensive Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA), prepared in accordance with the ICOMOS Guidance on HIAs for Cultural World Heritage properties, including reference to 3D visual simulations, so that the effects of the proposed development on the OUV of the property can be properly considered;
- Incorporate the intent of the resolution of the City Council of Vienna, dated 5 May 2017 within the revised planning rules and guidelines;
- Also requests the State Party to facilitate review of the designs for the proposed developments in the Karlsplatz-area, having particular regard to the setting of the Karlskirche, and to ensure that the proposals are evaluated through a comprehensive HIA, prepared in accordance with the ICOMOS Guidance on HIAs for Cultural World Heritage properties, and that comprehensive documentation, including adequate scale drawings and visualizations of the planned interventions as observed from ground level, are submitted to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, before any decision is made regarding the future of these projects;
- Urges the State Party not to amend the current land use and development plans and to halt any further approvals for high-rise projects, pending the preparation of the revised planning rules, and submit the proposed designs and related HIAs for any future high-rise projects to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines;
- Regrets that the State Party has not complied with the requests expressed by the Committee in Decision 40 COM 7B.49, in particular related to the lack of change to existing planning controls and the inadequate extent of change proposed for the Vienna Ice-Skating Club – Intercontinental Hotel – Vienna Konzerthaus project;
- Considers that the current planning controls pose serious and specific threats to the OUV of the property, such that the property is in danger, in accordance with Paragraph 179 of the Operational Guidelines and decides to inscribe the Historic Centre of Vienna (Austria) on the List of World Heritage in Danger;
- Further requests the State Party, in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, to develop a set of corrective measures, a timeframe for their implementation, and a Desired state of conservation for removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger (DSOCR), for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 42nd session in 2018;
- Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2018, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 42nd session in 2018.
The threats indicated are listed in alphabetical order; their order does not constitute a classification according to the importance of their impact on the property.
Furthermore, they are presented irrespective of the type of threat faced by the property, i.e. with specific and proven imminent danger (“ascertained danger”) or with threats which could have deleterious effects on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (“potential danger”).