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Historic Areas of Istanbul

Türkiye
Factors affecting the property in 2013*
  • Ground transport infrastructure
  • Housing
  • Management activities
  • Management systems/ management plan
  • Underground transport infrastructure
  • Other Threats:

    Continued degradation of the vernacular architecture within the protected zones (particularly Ottoman-period timber houses in the Zeyrek and Süleymaniye core areas); Land Reclamation project

Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Continued degradation of the vernacular architecture within the protected zones (particularly Ottoman-period timber houses in the Zeyrek and Süleymaniye core areas);
  • Quality of repairs and reconstruction of the Roman and Byzantine Walls and associated palace structures, including Tekfur Saray and the "Anemas Dungeon" (Blachernae Palace);
  • Development and absence of a World Heritage management plan (issue resolved);
  • Lack of coordination between national and municipal authorities and of decision-making bodies for safeguarding World Heritage at the site;
  • Impacts of new buildings and new development projects on the World Heritage property, mainly within the framework of Law 5366, and the lack of impact studies before large-scale developments are implemented;
  • Potential impacts of the new metro bridge across the Golden Horn as well as of the Bosphorus Transition Tunnel Project for Motor Vehicles.
UNESCO Extra-Budgetary Funds until 2013

Total amount granted: USD 211,900 (Conservation of Hagia Sophia); USD 36,686.30 (Convention France-UNESCO); USD 155,000 (in the framework of the International Safeguarding Campaign for Istanbul and Göreme)

International Assistance: requests for the property until 2013
Requests approved: 16 (from 1986-2004)
Total amount approved : 452,208 USD
Missions to the property until 2013**

January 2000, May 2001, 2002, December 2003, 2004: World Heritage Centre missions; April 2006, May 2008, April 2009, November 2012: World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS reactive monitoring missions

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2013

The State Party submitted a state of conservation report on 31 January 2013. Between 19 and 23 November 2012, a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission visited the property, as requested by the Committee at its 36th session (Saint-Petersburg, 2012), to assess progress in mitigating the visual impacts of the proposed Golden Horn Bridge, to consider proposed renewal and conservation projects, as well as progress with the overall strategic management of the property, and to assess the overall state of conservation of the property. The mission report is available at the following web address: https://whc.unesco.org/en/sessions/37COM.

a)  Mitigating the Impacts of the Haliç metro crossing (Golden Horn) Bridge

The mission acknowledged the considerable work that has been undertaken to mitigate the impacts of this bridge, including resources committed to halting its construction for a year, and the careful thought being put into deciding upon the remaining design details. The mission reported that, in November 2012, the bridge pylons were nearing structural completion, with sections of the deck at their base in position, and that the north (Beyoglu) abutment was substantially in place. It further reported that the refinement of the engineering design, by reducing bulk and height, had provided some mitigation of the effect of the bridge on its historic context and improved the design. However, the metro bridge will still be the largest structure in the Golden Horn estuary and its elevated bulk, set across the waterway, will certainly have a negative impact on people’s ability to appreciate aspects of the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property, particularly of views looking down the Golden Horn towards the Historic Peninsula such as Sinan’s masterpiece, the Süleymaniye Mosque.

The only design aspects now remaining for decision are colour, lighting, the design of the (non-structural) pylon caps, the detailed design of the station, and the form and landscaping of the pedestrian entrance structures and their setting. All of these elements need very careful detailing, for which the mission provided recommendations.

b)  Bosphorus Transition Tunnel Project for Motor Vehicles

The Eurasia Tunnel project for a double-deck tunnel limited to cars and minibuses, with improved approach roads, is planned to connect the European and Asian sides of Istanbul. The current proposal is for a 5.4km tunnel that would emerge close on the European side to the south-west corner of the property. Its impact on the Historic Peninsula would arise from the widening of the existing coast road alongside the Sea Walls to 8-13 lanes westwards to the Land Walls and the Marble Tower. The mission considered that it would therefore directly affect the character of almost all of the south shore of the Historic Peninsula, and that due to an interchange at Yenikapı, it would also direct traffic into the Historic Peninsula.

An Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) for the project, commissioned by the Contractor (ATAS) in order to satisfy the requirements of international lenders, considered other options such as an 18km tunnel that would emerge west of the Land Walls. However, because of its length and depth and substantially higher cost and technical risk, it was not selected as the preferred route. Despite ‘intermediate’ impact on above and below ground heritage, the shorter proposal was seen to be least harmful.

The mission considered that a longer tunnel continuing to Kazliçesme beyond the Land Walls would not only remove threats, but would have the potential to valorise the Sea Walls and the Mamara shore, not only for visitors but also as a “green lung” and amenity for the city.

The mission considered that in evaluating tunnel options, there was a need to consider four parameters: cultural (impact on archaeology and the property), environmental (impacts on quality of life and human well-being resulting from air and noise pollution), technical (the engineering feasibility of certain options) and economic (the overall cost of the project and its viability). The mission further considered that substantial, negative cultural and environmental impacts could not simply be weighed against economic benefits.

From discussions with the State Party, it appears that the economic arguments for a longer tunnel might not be insurmountable, taking account of the way the project is financed, but that technical and ventilation requirements needed more exploration.

The mission considers that more detailed technical assessments of these issues are needed such as the possibility of cut and cover construction rather than boring.

On 13 March 2013, the State Party informed that a Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) based on ICOMOS Guidelines is currently being conducted for the 5.4km tunnel and will be made available in May 2013.

c)  The Yenikapı Assembly Ground

The mission was made aware of this project to reclaim some 58 hectares of land from the sea between the Yenikapı Ferry Terminal and Samatya, to the southwest of the Historic Peninsula, in order to provide an area for meetings and public recreation for up to one million people. The project was approved on 27 September 2012 by the Ministry of Environment and Urbanisation, and an EIA was not deemed necessary, as the sea is not part of the conservation zone of the Peninsula. In a plan submitted in May 2013, it is shown as being a major recreational area for the city, with green areas and areas planted with trees along the shoreline.

There is a long history, particularly from the mid-20th century, of reclaiming small areas of land outside the sea walls, for Kennedy Cadessi, for port activities, and towards the west of the Peninsula, to provide urban recreation areas. None, however, has yet fundamentally altered the shape of the Peninsula and its silhouette from the coast to the south and the sea, as this proposal would.

Following the mission, a preliminary scoping study for a Heritage Impact Assessment on the Yenikapı Coastal Land Reclamation Project, produced by the Rheinisch-Westfaelische Technische Hochschule Aachen, was sent to the World Heritage Centre on 15 February 2013. By that point, construction had already started and completion is envisaged in spring 2014. The preliminary HIA was evaluated by ICOMOS and their comments were sent to the State Party on 8 April 2013.

The mission expressed concern that the Heritage Impact Assessment was commissioned only after construction had begun, rather than well in advance, before any irreversible decision was made by the authorities. It considered that the HIA should nonetheless address not only the direct and indirect physical impacts of the project, but also the potential impacts of gatherings of up to 1 million people on the environment and infrastructure of the peninsula as a whole.

d)  Proposed renewal and conservation projects

The State Party provided details of a number of restoration projects on Ottoman houses as well as of training initiatives for architects and craftspeople, all of which demonstrate the availability of good technical expertise.

The mission noted the importance of the Ottoman houses and street patterns for the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. Although these houses can be found around major religious monuments in the Süleymaniye and Zeyrek quarters and in the southern end of the Sultanahmet area, in other areas such as Sulukule or Ayvansaray, only scattered Ottoman houses survive; even the Süleymaniye area, with its distinctive tall houses, is at risk of losing its coherence as an historic area. The mission noted that in formal ‘Renewal Areas’, the projects have involved demolition and rebuilding largely unrelated to the historic character of the areas. The vulnerability of these Ottoman houses was recognised at the time of inscription and addressed by several reactive monitoring missions. Since so many houses have now deteriorated to a great extent, after half a century or more without repair, or have been demolished, the 2012 mission considered that a crisis point has been reached and rapid action is needed, if the future of a substantial number of the authentic structures is to be secured. The mission’s recommendations are reflected in the conclusion.

e)  Strategic Management of the property

The State Party reports that projects and programmes to increase public awareness and the promotion of the Management Plan have been started.

The mission reported that the adoption of the 2011 Management Plan for the property marked a major step towards resolving the issues that it identifies. There is now a need to review this plan to define clearly the attributes of the OUV, and consider how each of the four parts of the property relates to the others and to the Historic Peninsula as a whole. The mission was informed that work is also on-going to produce defined policies for the effective conservation of the property, to which the plans and proposals of all relevant public bodies are aligned. The mission also recommended, in line with earlier missions, that transportation should be a priority issue in developing clear and definite policies through the Management Plan and city-level transport planning.

The State Party reports that coordination meetings have been organized among the related institutions and the Coordination and Supervision Board, in order to provide coordination of the management plan with the Fatih Conservation Master Plan and major infrastructure projects.

The State Party provided details of the Silhouette Master Plan that has been developed and implemented as requested by the Committee. This plan aims to prevent the negative impact of high rise buildings on Historic Peninsula by setting maximum eaves height for buildings in the districts of the periphery (which have the potential of influencing the silhouette from the west and northwest).

f)  Other issues

The future of the Atatürk (Unkapanı) Bridge: The mission was informed that the future of this floating bridge, built in 1936-40, is being examined. Its removal would not in itself adversely affect the setting of the property, but any replacement could have the potential to do so, despite the intervening Haliç Metro Bridge. 

Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2013

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies note the strong commitment demonstrated by the State Party, through the development of the Management Plan and mechanisms such as the Silhouette Master Plan, to move towards a sustainable approach to development of the property within the overall Historic Peninsula. They note however that the Management plan has highlighted major challenges to be addressed with regards to large scale public and private projects.

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies acknowledge the commitment of the State Party to halt work on the Golden Horn Bridge for a year in order to consider ways of improving its design and mitigating its intrusion into the historic landscape. They note that amendments over the last two years to resolve the remaining design details have considerably refined the original design. However, the 2012 mission confirmed that the bridge will still impact adversely on views of the Historic Peninsula and on the ability of the property to convey certain aspects of its Outstanding Universal Value.

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies understand the logic and benefits of a third Bosphorus road crossing through a tunnel, but note that the current preferred shorter 5.4km tunnel option emerges partway along the southern shore of the Historic Peninsula. With its wide 8-13 lane approach road, toll plaza, intersection, and pedestrian bridges, it would have a highly significant impact on the Sea Walls, the Marble Tower, on the overall relationship between the Historic Peninsula and the sea, on noise and environmental pollution levels, and thus overall on the Historic Peninsula. The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies consider that a shortened tunnel would not only be highly detrimental, but would also irremediably sever the connections between the Historic Peninsula and the sea, just at a time when many other cities are reversing interventions now seen as costly mistakes and restoring healthy links to their waterfronts.

As recommended by the mission, they emphasize the need for further detailed multi-disciplinary studies on the feasibility of extending the tunnel beyond the Land Walls (perhaps as a cut and cover construction). These should include technical aspects (ventilation issues, vibration concerns), social issues (the potential benefits in social and environmental terms) as well as cultural aspects (conservation of the property within the Historic Peninsula and its setting) and economic issues, in order to ensure that the impacts on the Peninsula are both limited and largely positive.

Any option would need to be considered through a Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA) before commitments are made. The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies note the mission’s concern that the condition of remaining Ottoman timber buildings has now reached a crisis point, and  that  ‘Renewal Areas’ under Law 5366 appear to be adding to the loss of these buildings. They consider that there is a need for a rapid assessment of buildings at risk, an urgent need for reconsideration of renewal area schemes, for first-aid works to slow down the rate of decay and loss, and if possible for the re-instatement of grants to allow private owners to repair their buildings. The mission stressed the quality of work that was being undertaken to conserve some Ottoman buildings and the high level of skills and expertise that is available.

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies note that an HIA for the extensive Yenikapı land reclamation scheme was only commissioned in parallel with its construction, and that so far only a scoping study for the HIA has been produced for a project that is due for completion in 2014. While they understand that a recreation area is needed for the Historic Peninsula, they consider that the very large assembly area proposed could fundamentally alter the shape of the Historic Peninsula and its profile from the south. They suggest that the Committee request the State Party to take into account ICOMOS’ evaluation of the preliminary HIA when finalising this assessment.

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies also recommend that the Committee welcome the speed with which a Silhouette Master Plan has been put into place to define height restrictions that will protect the silhouette of the Historic Peninsula, and further request that the authorities share their views about the future of the Atatürk (Unkapanı) Bridge with the World Heritage Centre at the options appraisal stage, before any decision is taken.

They finally recommend that the Committee endorse all the recommendations of the mission.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2013
37 COM 7B.85
Historic Areas of Istanbul (Turkey) (C 356)

The World Heritage Committee,

1.  Having examined Document WHC-13/37.COM/7B.Add,

2.  Recalling Decision 36 COM 7B.89 , adopted at its 36th session (Saint-Petersburg, 2012),

3.  Take notes of the results of the 2012 joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission and requests the State Party to implement its recommendations and to duly proceed with the annual review of the Management Plan;

4.  Acknowledges the commitment of the State Party to halt work on the Golden Horn Bridge for a year in order to consider ways of further improving its design and mitigating its intrusion into the historic landscape, but notes that although amendments have refined the original design, the bridge will still impact adversely on views of the Historic Peninsula and on the ability of the property to convey certain aspects of its Outstanding Universal Value;

5.  Recognises the logic and benefits of a Bosphorus road tunnel, but also notes that the currently preferred shorter 5.4 km tunnel option, emerging partway along the southern shore of the Historic Peninsula with a wide 8-13 lane approach road, would have a highly significant, negative impact on the Sea Walls, the Marble Tower, and the overall relationship between the Historic Peninsula and the sea;

6.  Urges the State Party to undertake multi-disciplinary studies (technical, environmental, social, cultural and economic) as a basis for considering the extension of the tunnel beyond the Land Walls and to remove an intersection at Yenikapı in order to ensure that the impacts on the Historic Peninsula are both limited and largely positive; and to duly take all options into consideration when finalising the Heritage Impact Assessment, and submit this to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies before any irreversible decision or commitment is made;

7.  Notes with concern that the Yenikapı project for reclaiming a large area of land (58 hectares) to the south-west of the Historic Peninsula and thus create a recreation area for up to a million people, was started before a Heritage Impact Assessment had been undertaken, and without any advance notification being provided to the World Heritage Committee; and also requests that the State Party finalise the Heritage Impact Assessment, which should include the potential impact of such large gatherings on the environment and infrastructure of the peninsula as a whole, and submit it as soon as possible to the World Heritage Committee for review by the Advisory bodies;

8.  Also notes with concern the mission’s opinion that a crisis point has been reached for the remaining Ottoman timber buildings, and further requests the State Party to consider a rapid assessment of Ottoman buildings at risk, to reconsider renewal area schemes, to undertake first-aid works in order to slow down the rate of decay and loss, and, if possible, to reinstate grants allowing private owners to repair their buildings;

9.  Welcomes that height restrictions have been put in place by the State Party in a timely manner to protect the silhouette of the Historic Peninsula;

10.  Requests furthermore the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2015 , an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 39th session in 2015.

Draft Decision:  37 COM 7B.85

The World Heritage Committee,

1.  Having examined Document WHC-13/37.COM/7B.Add,

2.  Recalling Decision 36 COM 7B.89, adopted at its 36th session (Saint-Petersburg, 2012),

3.  Take notes of the results of the 2012 joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission and requests the State Party to implement its recommendations and to duly proceed with the annual review of the Management Plan;

4.  Acknowledges the commitment of the State Party to halt work on the Golden Horn Bridge for a year in order to consider ways of further improving its design and mitigating its intrusion into the historic landscape, but notes that although amendments have refined the original design, the bridge will still impact adversely on views of the Historic Peninsula and on the ability of the property to convey certain aspects of its Outstanding Universal Value;

5.  Recognises the logic and benefits of a Bosphorus road tunnel, but also notes that the currently preferred shorter 5.4 km tunnel option, emerging partway along the southern shore of the Historic Peninsula with a wide 8-13 lane approach road, would have a highly significant, negative impact on the Sea Walls, the Marble Tower, and the overall relationship between the Historic Peninsula and the sea;

6.  Urges the State Party to undertake multi-disciplinary studies (technical, environmental, social, cultural and economic) as a basis for considering the extension of the tunnel beyond the Land Walls and to remove an intersection at Yenikapı in order to ensure that the impacts on the Historic Peninsula are both limited and largely positive; and to duly take all options into consideration when finalising the Heritage Impact Assessment, and submit this to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies before any irreversible decision or commitment is made;

7.  Notes with concern that the Yenikapı project for reclaiming a large area of land (58 hectares) to the south-west of the Historic Peninsula and thus create a recreation area for up to a million people, was started before a Heritage Impact Assessment had been undertaken, and without any advance notification being provided to the World Heritage Committee; and also requests that the State Party finalise the Heritage Impact Assessment, which should include the potential impact of such large gatherings on the environment and infrastructure of the peninsula as a whole, and submit it as soon as possible to the World Heritage Committee for review by the Advisory bodies;

8.  Also notes with concern the mission’s opinion that a crisis point has been reached for the remaining Ottoman timber buildings, and further requests the State Party to consider a rapid assessment of Ottoman buildings at risk, to reconsider renewal area schemes, to undertake first-aid works in order to slow down the rate of decay and loss, and, if possible, to reinstate grants allowing private owners to repair their buildings;

9.  Welcomes that height restrictions have been put in place by the State Party in a timely manner to protect the silhouette of the Historic Peninsula;

10.  Requests furthermore the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2015, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 39th session in 2015.

 

Report year: 2013
Türkiye
Date of Inscription: 1985
Category: Cultural
Criteria: (i)(ii)(iii)(iv)
Documents examined by the Committee
arrow_circle_right 37COM (2013)
Exports

* : 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”).

** : All mission reports are not always available electronically.


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