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World Heritage Convention

Decision 23 BUR IV.B.85
Historical Areas of Istanbul (Turkey)

1) The Monument of Hagia Sophia of the Archaeological Park

The Bureau thanked the authorities for the efforts undertaken and recommended that the International Scientific Committee meets without delay and in accordance with the terms of reference decided upon so that a work programme may be established.

2) Historic Areas of Istanbul

The Bureau was informed of the international expert mission carried out in June 1999 to assist the Turkish authorities in the preparation of a periodic report on the state of conservation of the sites located in Fatih District– notably the site of Zeyrek and the Rampart area which are two of the four zones protected under the World Heritage Convention. In close collaboration with the local authorities of Fatih and ICOMOS National Committee of Turkey, the mission, built upon the report submitted by the Ministry of Culture of Turkey, as requested by the Bureau at its twenty-second extraordinary session, the studies conducted by the Centre in 1997 under the project funded by the European Commission and the project profiles prepared by Istanbul Technical University under the UNESCO International Safeguarding Campaign for Istanbul.

The preliminary findings of the mission indicated that unauthorized demolition and illegal construction within the World Heritage protected areas were occurring due to the abolition in 1992 of the 1990 Urban Development Plan for Conservation of Istanbul. Moreover, despite the 1996 declaration by the Regional Council for Monuments and Sites placing the entire historic peninsula of Istanbul as a conservation area, a new Urban Development Plan for Conservation (at 1:5000 scale) and the Detailed Conservation Plan of Fatih and Eminonu Districts (at 1:1000 scale) have not been adopted, within one year, as provided under the law. This delay in the adoption of the Plan has resulted in the prolongation of the so-called “transitional phase” under which all building requests in the entire historic peninsula must be approved by the Regional Council. The limited staff of the Regional Council causing delays in the building approval process has in turn, led to illegal construction activities.

The technical co-operation project co-funded by the World Heritage Fund, the Government of France and Fatih Municipality, has enabled the initiation of activities by the House of Fatih Inhabitants, now renamed “Istanbul Heritage House”. The office of this community advisory service has now been renovated, an information panel with a map of the World Heritage protected areas have been completed, and the Istanbul Technical University is preparing a detailed inventory of Zeyrek. International and national legal experts and urbanists have been identified to assist the authorities in the preparation and adoption of the Plan, as well as to define the terms and mechanisms of soft loans to the inhabitants for housing improvement in Fatih to be financed under the US$ 7.7 million European Union project designed by the Centre. The Government of France will also provide the services of an Architect des Batiments du France to support this effort under the framework of the France-UNESCO Agreement for the Protection of Monumental and Urban Heritage.

The expert mission also noted with concern the demolition of the timber buildings in Zeyrek and the reconstruction in its place of concrete and timber cladded buildings, undermining the authenticity of the area. The Centre, in collaboration with the ICOMOS Wood Committee experts of Turkey and the United Kingdom, and the Istanbul Architect Association is currently developing an action plan for the training in timber buildings rehabilitation and restoration.

Commenting on the Secretariat's report, ICOMOS praised the community-based approach being undertaken by the local conservation groups and commended the role played by the Secretariat.  He noted however, that the serious degradation of the timber buildings and the poverty of the inhabitants of Zeyrek and certain other sectors of the protected area make this urban heritage conservation effort an almost utopian cause. He however stressed that the involvement of the local community is the only possible way to ensure the protection of these parts of the World Heritage site.

The Bureau commended the Turkish authorities and the Municipality of Fatih for the establishment of the “Istanbul Heritage House” and notably the continued efforts undertaken by the Municipality of Fatih to encourage the inhabitants to conserve the historic urban fabrics of the World Heritage areas.

The Bureau reiterated its concern with regard to the state of conservation of the Ottoman epoch timber buildings in Zeyrek, their demolition and reconstruction of concrete and timber-clad buildings in their place, undermining the authenticity of this area.

The Bureau furthermore, requested the State Party to encourage the early preparation of the Urban Development Plan for Conservation by Greater Istanbul Metropolitan Administration and the Detailed Plan for Conservation by the Municipalities of Fatih and Eminonu and for the official adoption of these Plans to ensure the protection of the World Heritage areas.

The Bureau requested the State Party to submit to the Secretariat by 15 September 1999, an update on the measures being taken to address the concerns expressed above, and for the Secretariat to continue mobilizing international co-operation to support the efforts of the national and local authorities.

Decision Code
23 BUR IV.B.85
States Parties 1
State of conservation reports
1999 Historic Areas of Istanbul
Context of Decision