At is 32nd session (Quebec City, 2008), the World Heritage Committee urged the State Party to redesign the Ruza Hotel, taking into account the requirements of the 2001 Master Plan and the 2005 management plan for the World Heritage property, the recommendations of the 2006 and 2007 missions, and in line with the specific recommendations made in the 2008 mission. The World Heritage Committee also requested continued monitoring of the bridge to ensure its structural stability after cracks appeared.
a) Construction of a new hotel in the buffer zone of the World Heritage property
The hotel, built in the 1970s, was badly damaged during the conflict of the 1990s. A building permit to rebuild it as a five star hotel and increase its height to four storeys was given in 2004. Work was in progress at the time of the inscription celebrations in December 2005 when certain invited experts noticed what they considered as a potential adverse impact of the emerging building, which was not in line with height restrictions of the Master Plan of 2001. Work was halted in 2006 and the subsequent missions in 2006, 2007 and early 2008 have addressed ways of modifying the designs in order to mitigate the impact of the hotel on the urban landscape setting of the World Heritage property. The main concerns of these missions were the fact that the hotel covered almost the entire plot, that in contrast to the original hotel which was built as an assembly of ‘pavilions’ the proposed building was monolithic, with vertical elements and rigid volumetric masses, and that the proposed materials of glass and steel were in conflict with the surrounding stone and wood structures. The 2007 reactive monitoring mission suggested reducing the height, compactness and volume, and urged a re-design that respected the surrounding streetscape. Two proposed modifications to the design were presented by the State Party in 2008, but the World Heritage Committee at its 32nd session and the World Heritage Committee urged the State Party once again to re-design the building in line with the mission recommendations.
Following the decision of the World Heritage Committee, the State Party invited professionals named by ICOMOS and ICCROM to visit the site to propose technical solutions to integrate the hotel into the existing architectural volumes of the urban fabric, in consideration of the larger urban setting and plans for the city. This work took place from 11 to 18 October 2008, and the State Party submitted a report to the World Heritage Centre on 30 January 2009 which included the report of these experts as an Annex.
The experts provided information on a number of aspects of the hotel project and urban context, and in particular, information, in regard to other modern constructions located behind the Ruza Hotel building which would become visible from the bridge site were the height of the hotel lowered. The report, went on to state, however, that the exterior design elements of the hotel should be redesigned, keeping the same height, but adapting and modulating the facade to better fit within the historic fabric of the area. The report also included design guidelines and sketches to suggest how the facade could be redesigned to produce a building that would not compromise the visual integrity of the property, and would, therefore, not be a threat to its Outstanding Universal Value. The State Party report of 30 January 2009, however, did not include any technical drawings on which an evaluation could be based.
After the drafting of the state of conservation documents, on 7 April 2009, the State Party provided additional information in the form of a PowerPoint presentation with more detailed drawings of the proposed redesign.
b) Cracks in the Surface of the Bridge
In regard to the monitoring of the cracks, the State Party reported on the ongoing monitoring that is being implemented at the bridge and indicated that a contract had been issued to LGA Bautechnik GmbH, a German engineering firm, to continue and expand the structural monitoring of the bridge including a three-dimensional survey of the surfaces.
While welcoming the report of the State Party, the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies note that the State Party did not provide any specific, technical design proposals for the hotel in their submission of 30 January on which a proper evaluation on the new design could be based. Such an evaluation is necessary to determine if the proposed new design is sufficient to protect the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. At the time of the preparation of this document, the World Heritage Centre has forwarded to the Advisory Bodies the additional information submitted by the State Party on 7 April 2009. It will be necessary for the Advisory Bodies to carefully examine the new material in light of the previous decisions of the World Heritage Committee.
In regard to the structural issues of the bridge, the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies commend the State Party for the quickness with which they have instituted a regular monitoring system, and feel that it will be adequate for ensuring the ongoing structural stability of the bridge.