The World Heritage Committee during its 33rd session (Seville, 2009) decided to remove the Walled City of Baku with the Shirvanshah’s Palace and Maiden Tower (Azerbaijan) from the List of World Heritage in Danger. This decision recognized the State Party’s efforts to improve the state of conservation of the property and the significant progress made in the implementation of the corrective measures for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger.
At the same time, the Committee also requested the State Party to:
- formally approve the draft Conservation Master Plan (CMP), and submit it to the World Heritage Centre, and integrate it within the Integrated Area Management Action Plan (IAMAP):
- extend and develop the design guidelines for the rehabilitation and restoration of historic buildings, and the design of new constructions and street furniture, already included in the IAMAP, for efficient use by the State Department of the Historical-Architectural Reserve “Icherisheher” and Icherisheher owners:
- ensure that the integrated CMP and IAMAP acknowledge and reference the Statement of Outstanding Universal Value to be approved by the World Heritage Committee,
- formally adopt the revised IAMAP in the urban planning system of the City of Baku;
The State Party submitted a state of conservation report on 9 March 2010. This report states that the Conservation Master Plan (CMP) has been translated into Azerbaijani, provisionally approved for implementation by the State Department of the Historical-Architectural Reserve “Icherisheher” under the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Azerbaijan (SHAHAR) in December 2009, and submitted to the Cabinet of Ministers for ultimate approval. The report also notes that an international management consulting firm (McKinsey and Company) has provided a document that integrates the Integrated Area Management Action Plan (IAMAP) and the CMP into a single document, including a high level strategy and Action Plan for medium term implementation. The State Party notes that the purpose of the McKinsey Document is to transform Icherisheher into a world class tourism destination possessing adequate infrastructure, a strong cultural calendar, enjoying transparent public-private partnership and being regulated by special legislation.
The report further notes the issues concerning legislation, that SHAHAR has adopted two documents: “Rules on enjoyment and protection of historical buildings” and “Agreement on protection of historical monuments”. The report notes that the design guidelines within the IAMAP have been adopted, that the State Party has adopted best practices from historic towns around the world, including “Municipal Regulations of UNESCO Zone of City of Brussels”, and that local experts, including representatives of State Committee on Urban Planning and Architecture, and National Academy of Sciences have been involved in this process.
The report also notes that the State Party has contracted a building conservation firm, headquartered in Germany, “Remmers Fachplanung”, to carry out conservation work on the “Maiden Tower” and “Mohammed Mosque” and to support the on-site work with a local training component.
The State Party report also notes in relation to the adoption of the revised IAMAP, that the Draft Law on Icherisheher, currently being considered, needs to harmonize the municipal planning systems of Icherisheher and Baku, and that the Draft Regulation of the buffer zone of Icherisheher is still being reviewed by relevant state authorities (including the State Committee of Urban Planning and Architecture, the Ministry of Justice, the National Academy of Sciences and the Executive Power of Baku).
The State Party report also includes detailed information on many aspects of management of the property including provisions of the Draft “Law on Icherisheher”, the Order of the Cabinet of Ministers On Establishment of Buffer Zone of Icherisheher (dated 25 May 2009) submitted to the Cabinet of Ministers (August 2009), the status of the Conservation Master Plan provisionally approved by SHAHAR, and the McKinsey document, integrating the CMP and the IAMAP (submitted to the Cabinet of Ministers for approval), and new rules and regulations for traffic management, building refurbishment, exploitation and preservation of historic monuments and buildings by their owners and for establishing the "Scientific-Technical Council and Council of Elders" and their respective regulations. The report also details building and facade repairs, investigations, restoration and repair priorities, monument conservation works and infrastructure improvements.
The report also notes that as a follow up to recommendations contained in the CMP to ensure means of passage between the National Seaside Park and the Old City, a “building in state of danger and not subject to the reconstruction works was removed”.
The State Party report also notes a number of important activities, including landscape gardening measures, dismantling of satellite dishes, installation of special lighting systems in the Shirvanshahs Palace, and introduction of segregated waste collection. The State Party report describes a number of activities aimed at strengthening Icherisheher as a touristic centre, including numerous public activities. The report also notes efforts by the authorities to develop contacts and exchanges with other World Heritage historic towns, and to develop an international seminar in Baku on protection, management and conservation of historic urban landscapes in 2010.
The report also includes a brief summary of important measures undertaken by the State Party, including expenditure of 3.75 million USD allocated from the Reserve Fund of the President to “repair buildings, replace utilities, improve tourism infrastructure in the place of collapsed buildings and buildings in danger of collapse and constructions having no historical-architectural importance by preserving traditional street patterns”, following a Presidential Order of 16 December 2009, on the improvement of “Icherisheher” State Historical-Architectural Reserve. The report notes that a SHAHAR staff team now prepares an Action Plan for improvement of tourism infrastructure within the area.
On 15 April 2010, the State Party provided a supplementary report “Gesamtdokumentation / Baku, Aserbaidschan” dated 31 March 2010, in German, by the office “Remmers Fachplanung”, which gives an overview of the analysis and proposed restoration methodologies for two sites: the Maiden Tower and the Mohammed Mosque.
ICOMOS notes that the technical analysis provided by the State Party addresses various masonry and mortar stability issues identified, but that no risk analysis (important for interventions of the type proposed, in the context of World Heritage sites) is provided and that the impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property of various projects is not assessed.
The State Party also provided a complementary report on damages to the buildings located at Neftchilar avenue, Sabial District, justifying demolition of the structures. The report describes the conditions and the lack of adequate maintenance which has led to dangerous instability of some portions of both structures.
The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies are deeply concerned that the Presidential Reserve Fund was used to ‘improve tourism infrastructure in the place of collapsed buildings and buildings in danger of collapse and constructions having no historical-architectural importance’ without apparently attempts to restore buildings that contribute to the overall urban characteristics of the property. They are also concerned that a decision to remove a significant historic structure within the World Heritage property has been taken without recourse to heritage conservation experts trained to carry out this analysis, and without even addressing its impact on the Outstanding Universal Value. It would have been appropriate to ask: how can this important building be stabilized and retained? This approach epitomizes the concern that an over-arching conservation perspective does not yet exist to guide decision making in Baku, and that the effort to produce and integrate the CMP and the IAMAP has not yet succeeded in producing that over-arching management instrument and allowing it to operate with the authority of the Cabinet of Ministers.
The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies commend the State Party for its continuing high level and wide ranging efforts to ensure the long term conservation and effective management of this World Heritage property.
While the report of the 2009 reactive monitoring mission indicated that the State Party has put in place the corrective measures adopted by the World Heritage Committee, the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies are still concerned by the approach described by the two reports (Remmers Fachplanung report for the Maiden Tower and the Mohammed Mosque, and the State Agency report on damage to the buildings located at Neftchilar avenue) which have not been prepared in the context of the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. This can be specifically illustrated by the following:
· The State Party reports of blending the design guidelines in the IAMAP with design guidelines from other World Heritage cities, but does not explain how this will happen;
· Despite repeated requests from the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, the State Party has not provided a report which is described as integrating the CMP and the IAMAP in one over-arching management document;
· Much of the State Party report describes the commoditisation of Icherisheher for tourists, and promotion of the World Heritage property as an interpreted tourist experience rather than as living city. This approach is of concern as it represents a development vision for the World Heritage property which seems aimed at exploiting rather than respecting the heritage value for which it was inscribed on the World Heritage List.
The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies note in summary that appropriate measures should be developed in order to prevent any activities which could represent potential threat on the Outstanding Universal Value, integrity and authenticity of the property, and suggest that a reactive monitoring mission to the property be considered to review these issues.