State of Conservation (SOC)
Bordeaux, Port of the Moon (2009)
UNESCO Extra-Budgetary Funds
International Assistance granted to the property
Total Amount Ap proved:0USD
January 2009: joint Word Heritage Centre/ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
a) Destruction of the Pertuis Bridge;
b) Project of the draw bridge over the Garonne;
Current conservation issues
Application of the Reinforced monitoring Mechanism at the property since 2008 (32 COM 7B.89)
At its 32nd session (Quebec City, 2008), the World Heritage Committee strongly regretted the destruction of the “Pont de Pertuis” bridge in the dock area, almost immediately after inscription in 2007, and expressed its concern over the possible adverse impact of a proposed large new road bridge across the River Garonne and the fact that this project had not been formally notified to the Committee. It requested the State Party to “invite a joint World Heritage Centre-ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission to evaluate to what degree the Outstanding Universal Value of the property was affected following the destruction of the Perthuis swing bridge, and the impact of the drawbridge project on the Outstanding Universal Value and integrity of the property”.
On 30 January 2009, the State Party submitted its state of conservation report, requested by the Committee. This provided information on the Pont de Pertuis and the proposed bridge across the River Garonne as well as on the proposed demolition of the Cassignol College wine warehouse, about which ICOMOS had expressed concern. The State Party report mentioned the following points:
a) Pont de Pertuis
The State Party apologised for the demolition of this revolving metal bridge built in 1911 between two wet docks located in the old port area. This demolition had been considered necessary by the Port Authority, because of its poor condition. But it should have been valued as part of the attributes of Outstanding Universal Value. Its demolition is said to have resulted from a lack of dialogue between the owner and the responsible authorities. Lessons have been learnt and an inventory of the harbour remains are being carried out and these will be respected in any future development.
b) The Pont Bacalan-Bastide
The State Party sets out its rationale for a river crossing and in particular for a bridge at the proposed site. It considers that Bordeaux, as it is densely urbanised and tightly constrained, could develop on the Right Bank of the river, an area that is now being abandoned by various industries. It considers that there is a demographic and financial need for this development and that it is essential to maintain the health and dynamism of the city. The technical solution proposed, that of a bridge, with a central raising platform, connected to the existing network of streets by signal-controlled junctions, is considered to be an urban rather than a motorway bridge, which would connect two districts of the city, while allowing the passage of large maritime boats along the river.
The State Party stated that a lower, fixed bridge would remove the maritime function from the city, that a swing or tilt bridge would require considerable infrastructure because of the nature of the river, and that a tunnel, would cause problems with the ecosystems, and would introduce strong discontinuities into the urban fabric because of the need for ramped approaches that would intrude around 500 m into the urban areas. The proposed bridge would be located at the northern part of the property, some 2.5 km from the old city from where it is almost invisible, in a zone developed in the 19th and 20th century as a commercial port (and partially occupied today by pleasure boats). It would be an extension of the 19th century boulevards. The State Party considers that the proposed bridge does not compromise the integrity of the property nor its Outstanding Universal Value, as only 10% of the overall property is said to have co-visibility with the bridge. The bridge is considered to preserve the visual integrity of the property, the visual quality of the quays of the right and left banks and the silhouette of the “traditional and neo-classical city”. With regard to traffic movements, it is projected that the bridge will reduce circulation in the centre of the city, on the left bank quays and overall in the whole of the inscribed property. Finally, the State Party indicates that a workshop of experts has put forward a proposal for slight amendments to the tall pylons of the bridge in order to give them a more restrained elegance. This seems to be acceptable by the bridge designers.
c) Cassignol College
Following a report by ICOMOS expressing concerns over the proposed demolition and re-development of a wine warehouse as part of Cassignol College, a building permit has been refused by the city and a new project is being developed that would preserve the facade of the warehouse and the fountain in front.
A joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission visited the property from 20 to 22 January 2009. The main conclusions of the mission are shown below, followed by the comments of the World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS. The mission report is available at http://whc.unesco.org/en/sessions/33COM
d) State of conservation in general
In broad terms, the measures taken to protect and enhance the World Heritage site are considered to be satisfactory, notably the protection of whole areas as well as individual buildings. The programme of cleaning of historic facades is extensive and continuing. The treatment of public spaces and streets is of high quality, notably the new tram system which is without overhead cables and pylons in the property. The programme of opening up the quays along the river has had the effect of creating a fine promenade revealing the long line of historic fronts to advantage. The documentation of historic buildings and areas is well advanced. However the “bassins à flot” area that is controlled by the autonomous port authority has not been so well cared for as other parts of the property. It presents a neglected and ragged appearance, both in terms of open spaces and buildings, in stark contrast to the beauty of the large sheets of water. It is recommended that much higher standards of protection and development need to be set in this area within a given timeframe.
e) Destruction of the Pont de Pertuis
The demolition of this bridge is a serious loss. Its poor condition was substantially due to lack of maintenance and regular inspection. The replacement bridge is of inadequate quality for the property. As the bridge was one of the most important surviving features in the dock, it should have been repaired and preserved. It was a notable and impressive example of a swing bridge, a type of bridge which forms one of the principal points of interest in historic dockland locations. Its destruction impacts adversely on key attributes related to the port that reflects the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. It was the oldest preserved swing bridge in France.
The World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS had clearly signalled their concern several times at the imminent loss and the adverse impact of such demolition on the property to the State Party, as this bridge was considered to be contributory to the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. Yet despite the obvious urgency, the concerns were not taken into consideration.
While the greater part of the World Heritage property is protected by official designation of monuments and protected areas, the bassin à flot has not been fully assessed and protected. This is in strong contrast to most of the rest of the city where the authorities have been carrying a sustained and detailed inventory, documenting both historic areas and specific types of historic building.
The mission was concerned to learn that a proposal to protect a number of structures in the area of the bassin à flot, including the Pont de Pertuis, had been vetoed by the Prefect of Aquitaine.
The core of the problem appears to be that the autonomous port authority (PAB), state public establishment, operates outside the normal city planning regulations and that therefore no proper assessment had been made of the historic interest of the area or indeed of more general town planning considerations. The Pont de Pertuis was one of three bridges across the bassin à flot, two of which had already been rebuilt in connection with the city’s tramway system. The replacement bridges and the associated road works are of a lower standard of design, workmanship and landscaping than similar works associated with the tramway in the city centre and along the promenades. The replacement bridge has considerably narrowed the navigable channel between the two docks, from 25 metres to 9 metres. At the earliest opportunity the passage channel should be restored to its original dimensions.
The World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS note that the State Party regrets the demolition of the Pont de Pertuis and that measures are at hand to carry out an inventory of the harbour remains so that these will be respected in any future development in order to avoid any future error. They consider that at the earliest opportunity the passage channel should be restored to its original dimensions, as recommended by the mission.
f) The proposed Bacalan-Bastide bridge
The proposed bridge is a large structure in a prominent position at the north of the property. The height of the bridge’s piles is 87m, to allow the lifting of the highway up to 60 m. Its width is approximately 30m and its length 433m.
Studies have been made by the State Party of both alternative locations and types of crossing and also of their impacts. The bridge is designed to allow the central portion to be raised to allow the passage of tall ships.
The solution of a river crossing constitutes an important urban infrastructure as it allows the creation of an “inner belt”, able to reduce the vehicular traffic through the centre of the city, with significant improvement of the urban environment in the historic areas, and linking the right bank with the left. Motorway traffic from Paris continuing to Bayonne and Toulouse to the south can use the Pont d’Aquitaine to the north and the second motorway bridge to the south. Assessment has been undertaken of the location and use of the bridge within the context of the city and its traffic flows.
According to the State Party, the proposed bridge would be an urban bridge, not a motorway bridge. It will start from the level of the quays. Connecting with the existing main road (rue Lucien Faure) which is part of the inner ring road around the core of the old town, it will form a continuation of this road carrying traffic across the river. The bridge approaches will be controlled by traffic lights which will allow vehicles to turn left and right at either end of the bridge onto the quays. This halting of traffic will reduce the noise of traffic which will also be subject to the normal urban speed limit of 50km per hour. Moving the bridge further north would impede traffic flows and prompt some traffic to turn south along the quays to use existing bridges, thereby increasing traffic and congestion in a key part of the property. The new bridge will play a major role linking the right bank to the left and in developing of former industrial areas which are now being cleared.
h) Alternative options
At the end of the 19th century a tunnel crossing was considered and in the early 20th century designs for a stone transporter bridge were drawn up. Then as now the need to have large ships come downstream into the city was considered as a way of animating Bordeaux’s links with the ocean. A bridge was seen as a symbolic link between the two banks of the river in contrast to a tunnel which was seen to divide the two areas. Several alternatives were considered by the engineers and architects such as, swing bridges, retractable bridges, bascule bridges, folding bridges, and others since the launch of this project in 2000. However, none of these types of bridge, all of which would have had limited visual impacts, was considered fitting the special characteristics of the site and the project requirements (width of the opening, navigation security, etc.).
A tunnel has again been considered more recently as alternative to the proposed bridge with regard to the functionality criteria for such river crossing. The tunnel proposal, which would have assured minimal landscape impacts and a continuous flow of vehicles, was not retained for reasons linked to its cost (estimated at about twice the cost of a bridge) and for the excessive impacts of the ramps on the two neighbourhoods. More fundamentally, it was not seen as a “positive link” by the authorities and was also considered to have the disadvantage of being less suitable for pedestrians or cyclists. By contrast the proposed bridge would serve as a third quay on the river, connecting the other two and provides a crossing for both those on foot and on bicycle. It would shorten journeys for significant numbers of people.
It should be mentioned that only the lifting bridge option was opened for competition by the authorities in 2003. 5 proposals were reviewed by a jury in 2006 which selected the present project; the only proposal presented to the mission.
Taking into account the fact that the discussion on the solution preceded the inscription on the World Heritage List, the issue of conservation of the visual integrity of the World Heritage property and of the Outstanding Universal Value was not considered in the decision-making process for the bridge proposal. It is unclear to what extent the impacts on the heritage values of the city in general were taken into account in the decision.
Due to complementary points of view between the World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS on the conclusions of the bridge issue, their conclusions are presented separately below. The following conclusions/positions are extensively detailed in the joint reactive monitoring mission report.
i) Conclusions of ICOMOS
The quality of the design of the bridge has been a constant factor and the chosen option is the one that is seen to provide an elegant technical and functional solution, with acceptable impacts on the values of the World Heritage property. The proposed bridge stands in a long line of moving bridges including lift and swing bridges of various ingenious types, some of which are now seen as engineering landmarks, such as the Vizcaya transporter bridge, Bilbao, Spain (inscribed in 2006). Other designs considered used portals as opposed to the four corner pillars proposed. These solutions would have produced a much less elegant bridge and one that overall introduced more mass into the landscape.
The design of the bridge has been evaluated in relation to the banks of the river, views to and from the historic core of the city and in terms of its overall impact on the World Heritage property. On balance, ICOMOS considers that the bridge could form an acceptable addition to the working city and that its function, location and design, understood to meet a range of conditions and practical needs, could be seen to complement the attributes of Outstanding Universal Value as a port city. The Statement of Outstanding Universal Value recognises that “the urban form and architecture of the city are the result of continuous extensions and renovations since Roman times up to the 20th century.”
One danger is that the height of the bridge pillars could be held to set a precedent for further high structures on the right bank. ICOMOS considers that this would have a detrimental impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of the World Heritage property. It is for this reason that it is strongly recommended that a height limit on new construction in this area is put in place, and that the State Party is requested to indicate its time frame and work programme for ensuring that this is achieved.
ICOMOS, having considered the extensive studies undertaken on possible river crossings and their impact, and acknowledging that a new river crossing could facilitate the re-development of the Right Bank of the river, contribute to the overall dynamism of the property and reduce traffic along the quays and within the overall property, considers that the proposed bridge could be an acceptable addition to the World Heritage property, as well as providing an elegant technical and functional solution that continues to allow all ships into the heart of the city.
j) Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre
The World Heritage Centre concluded that the solution adopted for the crossing of the Garonne River in Bordeaux is not the best compromise between the need to preserve heritage values and the need to modernize and develop an urban area.
With respect to the values for which the property was inscribed, the proposed bridge has a considerable impact: It represents a modern structure that contrasts the urban continuity of the property, and it brings about new vertical elements, formed by the four 87m pylons, that compete with the highest vertical elevations of the historic city (i.e. the St Michel Cathedral, whose steeple reaches 114m). This contrast could have been avoided with the choice of any of the available technical alternatives, under or above the river. With respect to the proposal, the World Heritage Centre notes that the Statement of Outstanding Universal Value adopted by the World Heritage Committee for the property clearly identifies the exceptional value of the city in (Criterion iv) “the unity of its urban and architectural classical and neo-classical expression, which has not undergone any stylistic rupture over more than two centuries”.
Given the size of the proposed bridge, these impacts on the visual integrity of the historic urban landscape cannot be avoided, even considering the great effort deployed in the design and planning of the new infrastructure.
The solution proposed is based on the principle to allow large cruise ships to enter the Port of Bordeaux and be moored at the centre of the city. This principle leads to the design of a bridge solution that is largely oversized and economically not viable, due to the high costs of construction (twice the cost of affixed bridge) and management (about 1.5 million Euros per year), as demonstrated by the experience of a similar bridge recently completed in Rouen – that was never used since its inauguration in 2008 as the berthing area of large cruise ships was relocated downstream. It should be noticed that only about 30 cruise ships per year make today their way to Bordeaux.
The World Heritage Centre confirms therefore the preliminary conclusions expressed by the World Heritage Committee in 2008 (Decision 32 COM 7B.89, paragraph 5): “…that such a drawbridge would constitute, by its size and cost, an inadequate solution that would have a significant impact on the Outstanding Universal Value and integrity of the property and that would be very difficult to reverse;”
The World Heritage Centre therefore recommends reconsidering the solution adopted, studying alternatives that do not include the transit of large cruise ships in front of the historic areas, keeping in mind the importance of limiting the visual impacts on the protected areas. In particular, it recommends to take into consideration other bridge design alternatives allowing smaller ships to access the harbour and to consider the relocation of the large cruise ship berthing area downstream of the proposed location of the Bacalan-Bastide bridge.
Link to the decision
The World Heritage Committee,
1. Having examined Document WHC-09/33.COM/7B.Add,
2. Recalling Decision 32 COM 7B.89, adopted at its 32d session (Quebec City, 2008),
3. Notes that the State Party regrets the demolition of the Pont de Pertuis which crossed the bassin à flot, and has begun an inventory of the harbour remains that are attributes of the Outstanding Universal Value of the property;
4. Requests that in order to avoid any similar impacts to the Outstanding Universal Value of the property in future, consistent planning regulations be applied to the entire property including the bassin à flot and also requests the State Party to indicate its time frame and work programme for ensuring that this is achieved ;
5. Regrets that potential impacts of the replacement bridge for the Pont de Pertuis on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property were not assessed prior to construction and further requests that consideration be given to restoring the now narrowed passage channel to its original dimensions;
6. Urges however the State Party to reconsider the proposed Bacalan-Bastide bridge project and to study alternatives that do not include the transit of large vessels in front of the historic areas, allowing only smaller ships to access the harbour, in order to limit visual impact on the property, as well as to consider the relocation of the large vessel berthing area downstream of the proposed location of the bridge;
7. Requests furthermore the State Party to continue with studies aiming to limit the visual impact on the property;
8. Further considers that the facade of the former chai (wine warehouse), now part of the College Cassignol, should be kept and not demolished, as it contributes to the attributes of Outstanding Universal Value, and also notes that a building permit for its demolition has been refused and that a revised scheme is being prepared; and requests also the State Party that details of the new scheme be submitted to the World Heritage Centre for assessment by ICOMOS;
9. Decides not to continue to apply the Reinforced Monitoring Mechanism to the property;
10. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2010, a report on the state of conservation of the property and on the results of the studies carried out taking into account the Committee's observations with respect to the points above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 34th session in 2010.
Draft Decision: 33 COM 7B.101
The World Heritage Committee,
1. Having examined Document WHC-09/33.COM/7B.Add,
2. Recalling Decision 32 COM 7B.89, adopted at its 32d session (Quebec City, 2008),
3. Notes that the State Party regrets the demolition of the Pont de Pertuis and has instated an inventory of the harbour remains;
4. Requests that in order to avoid any similar errors affecting the World Heritage property much higher standards for protection and development be set for the two banks setting height limits; and for the left bank based on the new inventory of the harbour remains, and also requests to indicate its time frame and work programme for ensuring that this is achieved ;
5. Considers that the replacement bridge for the Pont de Pertuis is of an inappropriate character for the property also narrowing the navigable channel between two docks, and further requests that consideration be given to restoring the passage channel to its original dimensions at the earliest opportunity;
6. Taking note of the studies on the crossing of the river and of its benefits for traffic management within the property and for the re-development of the right bank, also considers that a bridge is in this case an acceptable solution;
7. Urges however the State Party to reconsider the proposed Bacalan-Bastide bridge project and to study alternatives that do not include the transit of large cruise ships in front of the historic areas, allowing only smaller ships to access the harbour, in order to limit visual impact on the property, as well as to consider the relocation of the large cruise ship berthing area downstream of the proposed location of the bridge;
8. Further considers that the facade of the former chai (wine warehouse), now part of the College Cassignol, should be kept and not demolished, as it contributes to the attributes of Outstanding Universal Value, and also notes that a building permit for its demolition has been refused and that a revised scheme is being prepared; and requests furthermore the State Party that details of the new scheme be submitted to the World Heritage Centre for assessment by ICOMOS;
9. Decides not to continue to apply the Reinforced monitoring mechanism to the property;
10. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2010, a report on the state of conservation of the property with respect to the points above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 34th Session in 2010.
View inscribed site documents, nomination file, reports, decisions, ...
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”).