1.         Historic Centre of Vienna (Austria) (C 1033)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  2001

Criteria  (ii)(iv)(vi)

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/1033/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1033/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

March 2006: Joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission to the “Palace and Gardens of Schönbrunn”; September 2012: Joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission to the “Palace and Gardens of Schönbrunn” and “Historic Centre of Vienna”

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1033/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2015

On 9 January 2015, the State Party submitted a report on both the properties “Historic Centre of Vienna” and “Palace and Gardens of Schönbrunn”, which addresses the requests made by the Committee at its 37th session (Phnom Penh, 2013) and is available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1033/documents. In Decision 37 COM 7B.71 regarding the Historic Centre of Vienna, the Committee requested that the State Party submit a report to the World Heritage Centre by 1 February 2014.

Development proposals for the area of the Vienna Ice-Skating Club / InterContinental Hotel / Konzerthaus

The report provides details of proposals to re-develop this area at the edge of the property and to replace three buildings from the early and mid-20th century that are not seen to contribute positively to the townscape. The design submitted is for a linear block and a square tower, the latter 73 metres in height. The report justifies the choice of this design by accepting the views of “a jury composed of top-level international specialists” that a high-rise block, instead of a “slab”, would avoid negative impacts on the cityscape. No substantial evidence has been provided, and no visual impact assessment was carried out to justify this assertion. It is however acknowledged that “if implemented, the project would have numerous technical and urbanistic effects on the surrounding area of the city”.

The report states that there is a need to clarify whether the project is compatible with the applicable building laws of Vienna and with the currently valid Land Use and Development Plan for the area. But mention is also made of the need for modification of the legally applicable Land Use and Development Plan for this part of Vienna, if the project is to go ahead. At the time of writing this report, no decision on the project has been made.

Vienna High Rise Concept & Glacis Master Plan

Since the Vienna High-Rise Concept, approved as a basic planning tool by the Vienna City Council in April 2002, did not refer to the World Heritage and no longer correspond to current requirements, the report notes that a new High-Rise Concept has been developed under the aegis of the Vienna University of Technology and was approved by Vienna City Council on 19 December 2014. This concept document proposes new methodologies and no longer incudes ‘exclusion zones’ for high-rise buildings, but rather suggests that every potential high-rise project must be analysed with regard to its impact, including on both World Heritage properties in general, and on visual axes in particular, and must demonstrate added value to its immediate surroundings.

A Master Plan was also developed in 2014 for the Glacis area that covers the immediate periphery of the property. It originally encircled the city walls and was developed when the walls were torn down in the late 19th century. This Plan follows similar methodologies to the High-Rise Concept.

The State Party indicates that both documents are to be translated into English and submitted to the World Heritage Centre.

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

The English version of the Vienna High Rise Concept is not yet available but, on the basis of explanation given in the report, it does not appear to be strong enough as a planning framework, which would imply the definition of a clear framework with requirements for the assessment of impact on Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) through Heritage Impact Assessments (HIAs), as well as clear guiding principles. Theoretically, the existing High-Rise Concept could be efficient if each and every case was to be individually evaluated on the basis of guiding principles, but the current situation of the development proposals for the Vienna Ice-Skating Club / InterContinental Hotel / Konzerthaus demonstrates how the Concept currently allows for subjective evaluation. No formal HIAs have been carried out and decisions appear to have been based on the review of an informal experts’ panel.

It is not clear how this Concept or the Glacis Master Plan relate to the Management Plan, nor how they relate to Vienna’s Urban Development Guidelines 46 (on high-rise development), which the 2012 mission recommended should be strengthened to allow for more detailed impact assessments, over and above those on visual axes, and to ensure that greater consideration is given to the attributes of OUV. Overall, these new and revised planning documents do not appear to have the potential to strengthen the preservation and conservation of the World Heritage property through embedding impact on OUV at the heart of planning policies.

The 2012 mission noted that, since the inscription of the property, urban development had reached a critical level and that its cumulative impacts were beginning to have an adverse impact on OUV.

In the particular case of the development proposals for the Vienna Ice-Skating Club / InterContinental Hotel / Konzerthaus area, and although redevelopment offered the opportunity to re-contextualize the area with regard to the Beethoven-Platz and the fine “Gründerzeit” buildings across the street, the plans have not respected the mission’s recommendation to reject any request to increase the height of buildings or to take the opportunity to reduce the height of the buildings and their negative visual impact. Instead a building is now proposed that is far higher than the existing one and which would appear to have a major negative impact on key views. This building is proposed without detailed drawings being provided, without any 3D modelling and without a formal HIA being undertaken. Finally, it is not clear that any of the new planning tools have acted to constrain this development in terms of its adverse impact on OUV, but rather seem to be promoting high-rise development across various parts of the property.

Decision Adopted: 39 COM 7B.94

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC-15/39.COM/7B.Add,
  2. Recalling Decision 37 COM 7B.71, adopted at its 37th session (Phnom Penh, 2013),
  3. Takes note of the information provided by the State Party on the revised High-Rise Concept and the new Glacis Master Plan, and that copies of English translations of these planning documents will be provided to the World Heritage Centre shortly;
  4. Notes that the details provided for the proposed development of the Vienna Ice-Skating Club / InterContinental Hotel / Konzerthaus area, as requested by the Committee, do not include detailed architectural drawings, 3D modelling, or a formal Heritage Impact Assessment (HIA);
  5. Recalls the concerns expressed by the 2012 mission regarding the critical level reached by urban development since inscription and its cumulative impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property, and the need for new tools to orient the development process towards sustainable development that protects the attributes of OUV;
  6. Expresses its concern that this proposed development appears to be in contravention of the recommendations of the 2012 mission in terms of the height of the buildings and their contribution to the surroundings, and that the designs appear not to have been constrained by the new planning tools;
  7. Considers that the new tools developed since the 2012 mission do not appear to ensure that OUV is adequately protected, and that details of proposed developments need to be provided to the World Heritage Centre as a matter of urgency, as well as information on the new and revised planning tools and how they relate to the Management Plan and other planning mechanisms;
  8. Requests the State Party to halt any further approvals for high-rise projects until they can be fully appraised by the Advisory Bodies on the basis of HIAs;
  9. Also requests the State Party to invite an ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission to the property, to consider current high-rise proposals, changes to planning tools, as well as the effectiveness of the overall governance of the property against the background of the concerns expressed by the 2012 mission and its call for stronger emphasis on the protection of the attributes of OUV;
  10. Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2016, an updated report, including a 1-page executive summary, on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 40th session in 2016.