1.         Historic Areas of Istanbul (Türkiye) (C 356bis)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1985

Criteria  (i)(ii)(iii)(iv)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger  N/A

Previous Committee Decisions  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/356/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1986-2004)
Total amount approved: USD 452,208
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/356/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

Total amount provided to the property: 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)

Previous monitoring missions

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

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

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

b) Quality of repairs and reconstruction of the Roman and Byzantine Walls and associated palace structures, including Tekfur Saray and the "Anemas Dungeon" (BlachernaePalace);

c) Uncontrolled development and absence of a World Heritage Management Plan;

d) Lack of coordination between national and municipal authorities and of decision-making bodies for safeguarding World Heritage at the site;

e) Potential impacts of new buildings and new development projects on the World Heritage site mainly within the framework of Law 5366, and the lack of impact studies before large-scale developments are implemented;

f) Potential impacts of the proposed new metro bridge across the Golden Horn as well as of the Bosphorus Transition Tunnel Project for Motor Vehicles;

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/356/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2012

The State Party submitted a state of conservation report of some 1,500 pages on 31 January 2012. On 10February 2012 it provided four supplementary pages. Additional information was also submitted on the outcomes of a World Heritage Coordination Meeting held on 28 January 2012, and on 19 April 2012 on the first report of the Advisory Expert Committee

a) Golden Horn Bridge

The State Party report states that in response to the request of the Committee to “consider all ways possible to mitigate the impacts of the Golden Horn metro bridge”, an Independent Advisory Expert Committee has been set up by the IstanbulMetropolitanMunicipality. It consists of four international experts, who had previously worked on the bridge, local and international senior advisors and committees of the Istanbul Natural and Cultural Sites and the Site Management Directorate. The State Party report mentions that the work undertaken by the experts will be shared periodically with the World Heritage Committee and related stakeholders during the construction of the bridge by the IstanbulMetropolitanMunicipality.

The State Party also states that the Metro Bridge Project across Golden Horn has been revised according to the ‘revisions defined in the independent expert reports prepared in 2011 and implementation works have been carried out within this scope’. The report thus makes clear that work is progressing according to the plans presented to the Committee at its last session and that no further modifications have been made. Seventeen piers are being constructed. Rescue archaeology has been undertaken on the Genoese walls and on the shore areas affected.

Representatives of the World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS were invited and agreed to attend a meeting with the Advisory Expert Committee on 28 January 2012. However, they were informed on 27 January that the meeting had been postponed. On 25 April 2012, a meeting between representatives of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS, and members of the Advisory Expert Committee took place at the World Heritage Centre. It was also attended by representatives of the IstanbulMetropolitanMunicipality and the Permanent Delegation.

At this meeting, members of the Expert Advisory Committee reported that, as work on the bridge piers was on-going, and, as 85% of the structural elements of the bridge had been manufactured, no further structural changes to the bridge were possible other than those reported to the Committee at its last session (reducing the height of the pylons from 88m to 53m or 63m – to be decided in accordance with the material for the upper part of the pylons from cables to top, reducing the width of the cables from 24mm to 17mm and the length of the metro station from 180m to 90m).

They therefore considered that the only mitigation measures that could be possible were related to colour and lighting, a reduction in noise pollution and the design of the landscaping at either end. It was agreed that these could be discussed at a further meeting at the end of May 2012 in Istanbul.

The Experts also noted that the considerable height of the deck of the bridge, that brings with it the need for extremely tall piers, was dictated by the height of the metro tunnels that were fixed well in advance of discussions on the design of the bridge.

b) Urban Renewal

A report by the Commission on Housing and Urban Development of the IstanbulMunicipality on housing development that might impact the silhouette of Istanbul was approved in October 2011. Based on a “views analysis”, this calls for the development of an integrated Silhouette Master Plan for all areas of the city that might impact the silhouette. The Plan will define the silhouette and outline measures necessary to respect it. In the meantime, the Commission called for restrictive measures to be put in place to limit the height of buildings.

The main report provides extensive details on proposed work in renewal areas across the city, to a level of detail that is difficult to assess from a written report.

c) Marmaray Rail Tube Tunnel

Rescue excavations have been carried out at Aksaray and Yenikapı Metro Stations, including on Neolithic footprints, shipwrecks, mosaic floors and chapels and in all over 1,300 finds have been recorded. Necessary revision was made to the certain aspects of the project to preserve some specific items in situ.

d) Bosporus Transition Tunnel Project for Motor Vehicles

The State Party submitted, as annexes 3 and 4, the final report of the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment and the report on the consultation process regarding this project. These extensive reports are being reviewed by ICOMOS.

e) Management Plan

The Management Plan has been revised to take account of the Committee’s decision. The revised plan was approved in October 2011 by the World Heritage Coordination and Supervision Council and has been submitted to relevant Municipal authorities and approved by them. The Plan was also submitted to ICOMOS for review.

The State Party report informs that the Plan was prepared by a wide range of stakeholders from central and local governments, universities, non-governmental organisations and local inhabitants coming together to set out a vision for the property. The Management Plan covers wider IstanbulHistoricPeninsula as it was not deemed appropriate to consider the areas of the historic peninsula outside the four inscribed sites as a buffer zone but rather as sites of value in their own right. There is thus no differentiation made between the inscribed areas and their wider setting of the HistoricPeninsula, although the Action Plans and Projects relates to the four inscribed sites.

The Plan provides a good profile of the HistoricPeninsula combining data on recent planning issues, projects, land profile, earthquake sensitivity and so on. The revised Plan is now highly aspirational and seeks to address the key structural issues facing the HistoricPeninsula as a basis for the conservation of cultural heritage. It acknowledges current weaknesses related to understanding of the property, lack of coordinated approaches, strategies and policies, and the need to undertake capacity building. It aims to harmonise legislative, transportation, conservation, tourism and renewal approaches across the Plan area.

The authorities intend to review the Plan on an annual basis in a cooperative spirit of sharing knowledge and experience. Regarding the first Annual Review, ICOMOS has suggested that consideration be given to the following: stressing the links between the four sites that form the serial property and that they form one property not four; setting out the attributes that convey the Outstanding Universal Value overall for the four sites; defining the links between the four sites and the zones of the Historic Peninsula in order to understand how the neighbouring zones contribute to the attributes of the Outstanding Universal Value and to the setting of the inscribed property; developing knowledge of cultural heritage more specifically on the Outstanding Universal Value and the attributes of this Value; articulating development threats; refining and coordinating management policies; refining projects to make them more achievable; amplifying the process of overlay between the Management Plan and other plans such as Conservation and Renewal Plans.

f) Conservation work

The Conservation Plan of the HistoricPeninsula was approved by the related Conservation Councils and IstanbulMetropolitanMunicipality in 2011. This is a map scale 1/5000 that identifies conservation areas and their status. The four sites of the property are first Degree Conservation Sites. Proposed work in the four areas is set out in the report. This includes conservation work, removing unlisted and illegal buildings, reducing streets to their original level, and constraints on development. The report also provides considerable detail on conservation and awareness raising activities. These include: establishing an Historic Peninsula Implementation and Research Centre by Yıldız Technical University in 2011 raising public awareness, and training communities on the values of the Historic Peninsula; conducting modular training program on stone conservation and restoration for graduates of Architectural Vocational High Schools and Vocational School of Higher Education; launching, in September 2011, a training program on “Training on Conservation of Cultural Heritage from Museums to House” with the support of the Ministry of Development and Istanbul Development Agency; and publishing a free magazine on conservation and restoration activities prepared regularly.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM

At its last meeting, the Committee expressed its great concern that the Golden Horn Bridge, even if amended as then proposed, would nevertheless still have an overall negative impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property and recommended that an independent expert Advisory Committee be established, in consultation with the World Heritage Centre, to consider all ways possible to mitigate the impacts of the bridge.

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies note that although an Independent Advisory Expert Committee has been established, this does not include representatives of the World Heritage Centre or the Advisory Bodies. Disappointingly, since the previous session of the World Heritage Committee, despite the urgency to address the issue of the visual impact of the proposed bridge, there has been only one very recent opportunity for formal dialogue between the Advisory Expert Panel and the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies on this issue.

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, note that, according to information received from the Advisory Expert Committee, construction of the bridge is progressing according to the minor revisions announced to the Committee during its last session and that, as the construction of the piers is well under way and 85% of the component parts of the bridge have been manufactured, there is no way to mitigate the impact of the bridge any further by changing its form.

The bridge design has not therefore been substantially modified since 2011. The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies recall that, the Committee at its last session expressed “great concern that the bridge, even if amended as proposed, would nevertheless still have an overall negative impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property.” The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies consider that further work is urgently needed on possible changes to colour and lighting, as being the only remaining options to reduce visual impact.

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies consider that a mission is needed in the near future to discuss with the Expert Committee what further changes might be possible.

The Committee’s recommendations at its last meeting included the need for an overall coordinated approach to the strategic management of the Historic Peninsula. The Committee requested that the remit of the Independent Expert Advisory Committee should include not only the bridge but also the development of a strategic framework for infrastructural development and conservation, and overall guidance on the management of the property. The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory bodies consider that this aspect is crucial in the light of the great impact that the height of the metro tunnels has apparently had on the scale and height of the proposed bridge.

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies note the good progress made with the revision of the Management Plan. They consider that the idea of the Plan addressing the whole Historic Peninsula is to be strongly commended – in terms of allowing greater coordination and prioritisation across all disciplines to address common issues and the coherence and visual integrity of the large area. ICOMOS has suggested areas of the Plan that could be strengthened at the first annual review.

The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies also recommend that the Committee commend the proposals for the development of a Silhouette Master Plan for the city that will define the silhouette, articulate key views and set out height limits for buildings.

In contrast to the lack of information on the bridge, abundant information has been provided in the State Party’s report on proposed renewal and conservation projects for the four areas of the city that make up the property. What remains unclear, however, is how these projects relate to the Management Plan, the Conservation Plan and other urban instruments. The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies consider that, given the concerns of the Committee at several sessions on specific renewal schemes and the difficulty of assessing all the information provided without the wider context, it would be helpful if these now detailed proposals could be considered on site through a mission. 

Decision Adopted: 36 COM 7B.89

The World Heritage Committee,

1.   Having examined Document WHC-12/36.COM/7B,

2.   Recalling Decision 34 COM 7B.102 (Brasilia, 2010) and 35 COM 7B.111 (UNESCO, 2011), adopted at its 34th and 35th session respectively,

3.   Notes that an Advisory Expert Committee has been established, as requested by the Committee, but expresses its regret that the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies have not been involved in the work of this Committee until its 8th meeting in April 2012 at UNESCO;

4.   Regrets that, according to the information received, no further mitigation measures to the negative visual impact of the proposed Golden Horn Bridge have so far been proposed beyond those already announced by the State Party and examined by the Committee in 2011, and that, as construction work has progressed, no further structural changes are possible;

5.   Considers that the Bridge, as currently being constructed, will have an overall negative impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property, and urges the State Party to pursue, as a matter of urgency, any further possible work to mitigate the negative visual impact of the proposed Bridge such as through changes to colour and lighting, and to discuss emerging proposals with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies;

6.   Requests the State Party to invite an urgent joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission 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;

7.   Acknowledges the detailed information provided by the State Party on the revision of the Management Plan and on proposed renewal and conservation projects and other conservation initiatives;

8.   Further acknowledges the efforts made by the State Party to address the need for conservation plans, an effective management system, development strategies for traffic and tourism, and a buffer zone;

9.   Also considers that the revised Management Plan is a significant improvement, commends the State Party for its scope in relation to the overall Historic Peninsula, and also requests it to address, at the first annual review of the Management Plan, the recommendations that ICOMOS has provided;

10.  Also commends the proposals to develop a Silhouette Master Plan for the Historic Peninsula that will lead to a definition of the silhouette and appropriate height controls;

11.  Acknowledging the concerns expressed by the World Heritage Committee in previous sessions on renewal projects in various areas of the Historic Peninsula, further considers that the detailed information now provided by the State Party on proposed renewal and conservation projects should be appraised on site;

12.  Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2013, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and on the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 37th session in 2013.