Since its construction in 1582 the Nesvizh Castle complex was variously altered until the end of the 19th century. In consequence, it reflects different architectural styles from Renaissance, Baroque, and Classicism to Modern. Despite State Party assurances to the contrary, since June 2008 significant concerns have been raised regarding the different approaches to work being adopted on the property.
The State Party was requested by the World Heritage Committee at its 33rd session to invite a joint World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission to the property to review work in progress, consider the conservation approaches, and review the overall state of conservation. It was also requested to submit details of the methodology to be adopted in rebuilding the Eastern Gallery, the types of proprietary materials and technologies being used in the conservation work, and the intended degree of conservation, restoration and reconstruction work in the adopted approach to the project. On 12 October 2009, the State Party provided a report on work undertaken on the Eastern Gallery.
The mission took place from 20 to 24 February 2010 and reported on its main observations and recommendations as follows:
a) The mission was informed that efforts were being made to strengthen the capacity of national heritage organizations, professionals and their accountability, in addition to receiving an increase in their budgets, with special conservation work funding being disseminated in 2010.
b) The mission noted that the palace complex had seriously degenerated during the period it was used as a sanatorium, and that the restoration and rehabilitation, financed by the Republic of Belarus, was a significant improvement on the state of conservation.
c) The mission further noted that building repair work used traditional materials and techniques, and was organised following in-depth historical research, and a thorough analysis of condition. Stabilisation measures for foundations, walls and load-bearing systems involved necessary rehabilitation and modernisation work, and the employment of manual skilled workers ensured that the standard of conservation/restoration measures was adequate. Extensive reconstruction plans for individual rooms were based on photographs which illustrated their final-documented historic state, whilst the restoration approach for the exterior largely reflected the mid-18th century period, when the original 16th century court façade was totally remodelled.
d) The mission noted that the Eastern Gallery was taken down and rebuilt for structural reasons, as described in the Information report presented by the State Party on 12 October 2009. Initial work on rebuilding internal walls and vaults opened up what were considered to be more fundamental structural problems. The Gallery apparently collapsed for the first time in 1755 and was later stabilised with metal bonds and a buttress. It was pulled down after attempts had been made to at least preserve the outer walls. After the demolition, which in principle is regrettable, the now rebuilt Eastern gallery is an unavoidable partial reconstruction of the palace complex of Nesvizh.
e) In reviewing the adopted rebuilding methodology, the mission noted that the Eastern Gallery reconstruction used salvaged brick material from the “dismantled” historic structure; that the Gallery was surveyed prior to “dismantling”, and was re-erected with the same floor heights and fenestration, with walls set on foundations, complying with modern standards. In assessing the type of materials and technologies being used in the conservation work, the mission noted that the internal walls and vaults were plastered, with sparingly applied stucco decoration on the courtyard elevations.
f) In principle, the mission noted few difficulties in agreeing with the standards and approach adopted for the rebuilding: some parts had been repaired and safeguarded; missing parts replaced; disfiguring 20th century additions removed; and an earlier state reconstituted. In the process, it noted however that there have been conservation, restoration and renovation approaches to the work where, in some circumstances, the conservation and renewal approaches intertwined.
g) The mission also noted that it would be appropriate to remind the personnel in charge of the property of the necessary balance between repair and renewal which needs to be part of clearly set out policies and approaches for conservation, restoration and reconstruction in the Management Plan. Furthermore, projects such as this needed to be notified to the World Heritage Centre, for review by ICOMOS, in accordance with paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines.
h) Evaluating the technical stability of structures, apart from the desolate condition of the small 19th-century north-east corner tower of the arsenal wing, the mission observed that the stability of most structures has been secured, and those parts threatened by unstable foundations had been thoroughly investigated.
i) Evaluating the status of the management plan for the property, and a review of the policy of restoration and reconstruction, requested by the World Heritage Committee at its 29th session (Durban, 2005) the mission noted that the management plan conforms with the new Law of the Republic of Belarus on the Protection of Historical and Cultural Heritage, passed on 24 July 2006. The plan does not however include a policy for restoration and reconstruction, as requested by the Committee.
j) The mission considered that in view of the enormous tasks of protecting and conserving the Belarusian monuments and sites, the Department of Protection of Historical and Cultural Heritage and Restoration should increase its staff of specialists in conservation, restoration and documentation.
k) The mission noted that proposals were being drawn up for installing heating in the Corpus Christi Church and considered that an overall conservation plan would be needed before this work was undertaken. It further noted the need for greater protection to the urban setting of Nesvizh, where in the past few decades new buildings have been erected that are out of scale with the urban grain and impact adversely on the visual integrity of the setting of the property.
The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies express concern at the demolition of the Eastern Gallery for structural reasons in the light of the fact that details of this project were not notified to the World Heritage Centre, for review by ICOMOS, in accordance with the Operational Guidelines, in order to allow discussion on whether further advice on structural engineering might have been provided. They nevertheless consider that the approaches to its rebuilding were adequate.
They note that the mission was generally satisfied at the approaches to restoration in terms of research, materials, techniques and documentation but that restoration and renewal seem to be inextricably intertwined without a clear rationale for their differing justifications. Although a Management Plan has been prepared for the property and accords with national law, this does not set out a clear approach for restoration, conservation and renewal as requested by the World Heritage Committee. Such a clear approach needs to be put in place before work projects are undertaken such as for the installation of heating in Corpus Christi Church.