Historic Area of Willemstad, Inner City and Harbour, Curaçao

Historic Area of Willemstad, Inner City and Harbour, Curaçao

The people of the Netherlands established a trading settlement at a fine natural harbour on the Caribbean island of Curaçao in 1634. The town developed continuously over the following centuries. The modern town consists of several distinct historic districts whose architecture reflects not only European urban-planning concepts but also styles from the Netherlands and from the Spanish and Portuguese colonial towns with which Willemstad engaged in trade.

Zone historique de Willemstad, centre ville et port, Curaçao

Les Hollandais ont établi en 1634 un comptoir commercial dans un beau port naturel de l'île de Curaçao, dans les Caraïbes. La ville s'est développée de façon continue durant les siècles suivants. Elle comporte plusieurs quartiers historiques distincts dont l'architecture reflète aussi bien les styles des Pays-Bas que ceux des villes coloniales espagnoles et portugaises avec lesquelles Willemstad faisait du commerce.

منطقة ويلمستاد التاريخية ووسط المدينة والمرفأ وجزر الانتيل الهولندية

أنشأ الهولنديون في العام 1634 وكالة تجارية في مرفأ طبيعي في جزيرة كورساو التي تقع ضمن جزر الكاريبي. وقد نمت المدينة بصورة متواصلة في خلال العصور اللاحقة. وهي تتضمن أحياء تاريخية متميّزة تعكس هندستها الأنماط الرائجة في هولندا كما تلك المعروفة في المدن الاستعمارية الاسبانية والبرتغالية التي كانت تشهد حركة تجارية مع ويلمستاد.

source: UNESCO/ERI

荷属安的列斯群岛的威廉斯塔德、内城及港口古迹区

威廉斯塔德港口是荷兰人于1634年在加勒比海库拉索岛(Curaçao)建成的一处优良贸易港湾。这座城镇经历了几个世纪的繁荣后仍然继续发展。当代的城镇由几个截然不同的老城区构成,这里的建筑表现为欧式与荷兰风格的结合,因为在当时西班牙与葡萄牙殖民者在此从事贸易活动。

source: UNESCO/ERI

Внутренний город и гавань Виллемстада (Кюрасао, Нидерландские Антильские острова)

Голландцы основали торговое поселение в красивой естественной гавани карибского острова Кюрасао в 1634 г. В последующие столетия оно преемственно развивалось. Современный город включает несколько отдельных исторических районов, архитектура которых отражает не только европейские концепции градостроительства, но и стили, привнесенные из Нидерландов и тех испанских и португальских колониальных городов, с которыми Виллемстад был связан торговыми отношениями.

source: UNESCO/ERI

Zona histórica de Willemstad,centro de la ciudad y puerto (Antillas Holandesas)

En 1634, los holandeses establecieron una factoría comercial en un hermoso puerto natural de la isla caribeña de Curazao. La ciudad de Willemstad, creada en torno a esa factoría, fue creciendo sin cesar en los siglos siguientes. El trazado de sus diferentes barrios históricos reproduce los esquemas europeos de planificación urbana, mientras que los estilos arquitectónicos de sus edificios son un reflejo de los imperantes en los Países Bajos y en las ciudades coloniales españolas y portuguesas con las que la ciudad comerciaba.

source: UNESCO/ERI

港町ヴィレムスタット歴史地域、キュラソー島
オランダ人は1634年に、カリブ海上のクラサオ島の自然の良港に貿易のための居留地を建設し、以後発展続けた。近代的市街地はいくつかの異なった歴史地域から成っており、それぞれの建造物はオランダや、ヴィレムスタットが交易したスペインやポルトガルの様式を反映している。

source: NFUAJ

Historisch deel van Willemstad, binnenstad en haven, Curaçao

De Nederlanders vestigden in 1634 een handelsnederzetting aan een mooie natuurlijke haven op het Caribische eiland Curaçao. Willemstad ontwikkelde zich in de daaropvolgende eeuwen gestaag. De moderne stad bestaat uit een aantal verschillende historische wijken waarvan de architectuur niet alleen de Europese stedenbouwkundige concepten weerspiegelt, maar ook stijlen uit Nederland en Spaanse en Portugese koloniale steden waarmee Willemstad samenwerkte. De stad onderscheidt zich door de diversiteit in vormgeving van de vier historische wijken (Punda, Otrobanda, Pietermaai en Scharloo), gescheiden door de open wateren van een natuurlijke haven.

Source: unesco.nl

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Historic Area of Willemstad, Inner City and Harbour
Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis

The Historic Area of Willemstad is an example of a colonial trading and administrative settlement. It was established by the Dutch on the island of Curaçao, situated in the southern Caribbean, near the tip of South America. Starting with the construction of Fort Amsterdam in 1634 on the eastern bank of Sint Anna Bay, the town developed continuously over the following centuries.

The modern town, the capital of the island nation of Curaçao, consists of several distinct historic districts, reflecting different eras of colonial town planning and development. Punda, the oldest part of the city, was built in the 17th century on the eastern side of Sint Anna Bay, adjacent to Fort Amsterdam and is the only part of the city that had a defence system consisting of walls and ramparts. The other three historic urban districts (Pietermaai, Otrobanda and Scharloo) date from the 18th century. Water Fort and Rif Fort, also included in the inscribed property, were built in the late 1820s as part of a more extensive series of fortifications. In the midst of the historic area is a natural deep-water harbour. The entire property encompasses 86 ha and is surrounded by a 87 ha buffer zone.

The architecture of Willemstad has been influenced not only by Dutch colonial concepts but also by the tropical climate and architectural styles from towns throughout the Caribbean region, with which the settlement engaged in trade. Early residences constructed in Punda followed Dutch urban design. In the 18th century, local materials and craftsmanship as well as new architectural elements, such as galleries, began to appear. As the city expanded beyond Punda, the architectural style of the residences evolved. For example, the development of Otrobanda was not restricted by ramparts and houses were built on spacious lots and resembled plantation houses surrounded by galleries. Moreover, the social and cultural differences from Afro-American, Iberian and Caribbean inhabitants have contributed to enriching the building traditions as well as the city’s cultural life. The result is a European architectural style with regional adaptations in a rich array of Caribbean colours. The colourful buildings of Willemstad are a local tradition dating from 1817, when the previous style of white lime finish on a building exterior was prohibited, apparently to protect eyesight from the glare. Predominant colours are red, blue, yellow ochre and various shades of green.

Willemstad is an exceptionally well preserved example of a Dutch colonial trading settlement. Due to the interchange of cultures, it shares a common cultural history with other counterpart cities in the Caribbean region, which is a very particular aspect of the property. The unique setting in a natural harbour qualifies the Historic Area of Willemstad as a rare example of a historic port town laid out in a setting of natural waters.

Criterion (ii): The Historic Area of Willemstad is a colonial ensemble in the Caribbean, which illustrates the organic growth of a multicultural community over three centuries. It also represents a remarkable historic port town in the Caribbean in the period of Dutch expansion with significant town planning and architectural qualities.

Criterion (iv): The four historic urban districts of Historic Willemstad show the subsequent stages of historical development over the course of centuries of the city. The city can be easily read and used as a textbook for its historical and cultural development.

Criterion (v): The historical urban fabric and the historical architecture are based on examples of European traditions that are transferred to the New World. Influences of the Americas and Africa and cultural elements of the region transformed the European elements into a typical Caribbean development.

Integrity

The Historic Area of Willemstad has retained its integrity through the survival of the historic urban structure of the period 1650-1800. The inclusion of several distinct historic districts surrounding an active harbour, which continues to serve as the gateway to the city, reflects its evolution over more than three centuries. Much of the property’s street pattern and urban structure, such as the narrow alleys of Punda and Otrobanda, are relatively intact.

The city has not been without change and damage to its historic areas. Development linked to the oil industry had an impact on the historic area beginning with the arrival of the Shell oil refinery in the early 20th century. The construction of a highway (1960s) and of access roads for the Queen Juliana Bridge (1974) cut through the historic districts of Otrobanda and Scharloo. Additionally, fires in Punda and Otrobanda caused damage to the historic infrastructure.

Threats to the historic area exist in part due to the loss of historic buildings, resulting from lack of maintenance by the owners and environmental damage from salt water and climate. Additionally, there is development pressure related to the tourism industry, the impact of which can be seen in the hotel construction in Punda and along the waterfront as well as the redevelopment of Water Fort.

Starting in the early 1990s, new preservation organisations were created and new procedures implemented, to which new developments in the historic area must comply. Several development projects were also executed in an organic way. Next to private developments as in Kura Hulanda and Pietermaai, the government and governmental entities took a leading role in inner city regeneration in the historic quarters of Otrobanda (Stegengebied, Koralengebied), and more recently in the historic quarters of Scharloo and Fleur de Marie.

Authenticity

The urban fabric and the historic townscape remain relatively unchanged and the various zones in the inner city are still recognizable. Sint Anna Bay continues to operate as an active working harbour. Fort Amsterdam retains an administrative function and is the location of the Governor's residence, the Ministry, several government offices, as well as the United Protestant Church. The urban plan of Punda has been largely retained, including its alleys and original street names. Archaeological works undertaken in this district in 1990 provided information on this oldest part of Willemstad.

With regards to the city’s architecture, many of the monuments are authentic in design, materials and craftsmanship, and are protected as historic monuments. The tradition of colourful building exteriors continues with an array of red, blue, yellow ochre, and green. There is also a distinctive Curaçao Baroque style of architecture, predominantly found on the larger lots of Otrobanda and Scharloo. A common feature of this style is the curved Dutch gable of which the Penha Building (1708) is the best known example. New development is incorporated into existing buildings.

Poor infill development, fragmented urban fabric, along with restorations prior to the introduction of regulations have had an impact on the authenticity of several historic buildings. Currently, the rules and regulations regarding the replacement of imported materials in restoration and conservation projects are strictly observed.

Protection and management requirements

On 10th October, 2010, the island of Curaçao became a separate country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which brought along a drastic transformation of the governmental structure and the level of the responsible government entities. Because of this transformation process, it has been difficult to install a management organization and the work on the management plan has been put on hold.

The political situation did not affect the care for the World Heritage property. A transitional act has ensured that all laws and regulations that previously applied to the Netherlands Antilles and the island of Curaçao are now legally valid in the new country of Curaçao. Obsolete regulations and plans will subsequently be updated. Within the new government structure, the Ministry of Traffic, Transportation and Urban Planning is responsible for the management of the World Heritage property.

Private ownership covers a large majority of the buildings and properties within the historic area (approximately 90%). Fort Amsterdam is owned by the national government and a number of monuments in Scharloo-Oost are owned by the government or related institutions.

An interlocking system of laws and ordinances constitutes a formal policy for protecting individual properties, groups of buildings and the townscape as a whole. These laws and regulations include: the Island Wide Development Plan (zoning plan), which protects the property as a townscape, and the Monuments Ordinance (Monumenten Eilandsverordening, for objects on land and under water), providing protection to the individual monuments within the site. Additional protection is provided through the National Ordinance Maritime Management (Landsverordening Maritiem Beheer), the Malta Convention, the Building Ordinance, and the Island Ordinance on Spatial Development Planning (Eilandsverordening Ruimtelijke Ontwikkelingsplanning Curaçao (EROC)).

There is also a structured system of official bodies involved in the protection and conservation of the historic area. Within the Department of Urban Planning, Development and Housing, the Monuments Office is fully responsible for protection and conservation of monuments, including the historic townscape. New developments and development of the urban space are under the responsibility of the Programs and Projects division. Financing is provided through the long-range programme contribution regulation for the preservation of monuments and historic buildings (Meerjarenprogramma Bijdrageregeling monumentenzorg), the Social-economic Initiative (Sociaal Economisch Initiatief), and other initiatives.

Long Description

The Historic Area of Willemstad is a European colonial ensemble in the Caribbean of outstanding value and integrity, which illustrates the organic growth of a multicultural community over three centuries and preserves to a high degree significant elements of the many strands that came together to create it. The urban structure and architecture of this area are both authentic examples of colonial town planning and architecture of the period of Dutch expansion. Its cultural and historical significance stems not only from its town planning and architectural qualities as a historic port town, but is also manifest beyond the local level.

Willemstad stands out for the diversity in the historical morphology of its four historic districts (Punda, Otrobanda, Pietermaai and Scharloo), separated by the open waters of a natural harbour. Each district has its own distinct urban morphology resulting from successive planning concepts, but they share a unique 'tropicalized' historical architecture of Dutch origin. This area consists of a core area of Sint Anna Bay and part of the Caribbean Sea, Punda and most of Otrobanda, and two transmission areas, consisting of the urban districts of Pietermaai, Scharloo and Kortijn.

In the core area the entrance to Sint Anna Bay is protected by fortifications on both sides - the Water Fort on the Punda side and the Rif Fort on the Otrobanda side. These defensive works are important and relatively well-preserved examples of contemporary fortifications, especially when taken with other surviving defensive works that lie outside the area.

The city's historical architecture is of a strikingly genuine and colourful European origin set in a tropical environment. Nothing like it can be found elsewhere in the Dutch West or East Indies. Punda represents a dense and compact historical urban structure, reflecting its origin as a fortified town surrounded by ramparts. Pietermaai and Scharloo enjoy the relative freedom of space resulting in an open layout of streets lined by detached and often quite luxurious dwellings, whereas Otrobanda features both an open compound layout and a dense alley structure.

The island society on Curaçao owes its origin to the expansion of Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries. After Spain had encroached upon the island in 1499 at the expense of its indigenous inhabitants, the Arawak Indians, the Dutch took possession of it in 1634, in the period of Dutch domination of trade and the seas, and the settlement was created by the Dutch West India Company. The development of Punda began with the construction of Fort Amsterdam, designed according to the old Dutch fortification system. The fort with its five bastions was a self-contained settlement, with its own church and water supply as well as the residence of the governor and barracks for the garrison. Within each of the settlements flanking the bay there is a waterfront square, and they are linked by the famous pontoon bridge erected in 1888, officially known as the Queen Emma Bridge but better known to the inhabitants as the 'Swinging Old Lady'. Apart from two brief British occupations, the island remained Dutch colonial territory until 1955, when the Netherlands Antilles acquired self-government within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Willemstad is a typical port town, but one without a hinterland, which focused on the neighbouring Spanish, English and French colonies on the mainland of South America and in the Caribbean. Frequent trade with South America led to an exchange of goods and the reciprocal adoption of cultural elements. Curaçao therefore has an Iberian tinge as a result of the settlement of Sephardic Jews from Spain and Portugal in the 17th century. By 1730 the Jewish community represented 50% of the white population of Curaçao. African influences also entered the island, as Curaçao was a centre of the slave trade at one time.

Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
Historical Description

The island society on Curaçao (which covers some 450km2) owes its origin to the expansion of Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries. After Spain had encroached upon the island in 1499 at the expense of its indigenous inhabitants, the Arawak Indians, the Dutch took possession of it in 1634, in the period of Dutch domination of trade and the seas, and the settlement was created by the Dutch West India Company (West-lndische Compagnie - WlC). Apart from two brief British occupations (1800-3 and 1807- 16), the island remained Dutch colonial territory until 1955, when the Netherlands Antilles acquired self-government within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Willemstad is a typical port town, but one without a hinterland, which focused on the neighbouring Spanish, English, and French colonies on the mainland of South America and in the Caribbean. Frequent trade with South America (the Spanish Main) led not only to an exchange of goods but also the reciprocal adoption of cultural elements. Curaçao therefore has an Iberian tinge, not least as a result of the settlement of Sephardic Jews from Spain and Portugal, who came there in the 17th century by way of Amsterdam. By 1730 the Jewish community represented 50% of the white population of Curaçao. African influences also entered the island, since Curaçao was a centre of the slave trade at one period.

The city developed on both banks of Sint Anna Bay, which forms the narrow entrance to the sheltered inland bay of Schottegat; both are excellent deepwater harbours. Settlement started on the eastern side, known as Punda, in the 17th century. Otrobanda, on the western side, developed at the beginning of the 18th century and a little later around Waaigat, the inner bay behind an elongated peninsula facing the Caribbean.

There was some decline in the condition of the historic city in the second half of the 20th century, with the departure of many of the more prosperous members of the community, but this has now been halted and is being reversed.

Source: Advisory Body Evaluation