1.         Historic Areas of Istanbul (Turkey) (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 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)

Previous monitoring missions

November 1997: ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission; October 1998: World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission; January 2000, May 2001, 2002, December 2003, December 2004: World Heritage Centre missions; April 2006, May 2008, April 2009, November 2012: World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission; December 2016: Reactive monitoring mission World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

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

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2017

A joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission visited the property in December 2016 (mission report available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/356/documents). Subsequently, the State Party submitted a state of conservation report on 31 January 2017, which is available at the same address. Progress on a number of conservation issues addressed by the Committee at its previous sessions is presented in these reports, as follows:

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

The mission considered the impact of the Eurasia Tunnel approach road and the Yenikapı land reclamation scheme, the state of conservation of the Ottoman timber houses and the Land Walls and the revision of the Management Plan.

The potential ‘severe negative impact’ on the southern edge of the historic peninsula of the Eurasia Tunnel approach road, an eight-lane urban expressway with two grade-separated interchanges at Yenikapı and Samatya, assessed by the previous mission in 2012, has been confirmed by the 2016 mission. The development of an HIA was carried out after the project was given approval, leaving little room for addressing the recommendations by the Committee on improvements to be made to mitigate its impact. A positive change has been the re-routing of the road south of the Marble Tower, reuniting it with the Land Walls.

The Yenikapı land reclamation project has significantly changed the shape of the peninsula. A large white ‘Activity Tent’ was in course of construction in late 2016. Taken together, the mission considered that these have caused moderate harm to people’s ability to appreciate the historic form and some views of the silhouette of the peninsula. The HIA for the land reclamation project was undertaken after most of the work was completed and while construction of the Activity Tent was on-going.

The common factor in all recent major infrastructure projects, since the Haliç metro bridge, has been the decision to proceed with the implementation of the projects in advance of HIAs being undertaken and of engagement with the Committee. Furthermore, no project details or HIAs have been provided to the World Heritage Centre for the major new Urban Renewal, conservation projects and approved or proposed new buildings mentioned in the State Party report, apart from for the Zeyrek mosque, nor were details of these provided to the mission.

The amount of resources being directed at conservation projects is impressive but so far no details of any of the major projects, such as those for the Land Walls and the the Bucoleon Palace, have been submitted for review, even though the Committee has been requesting these since 2004.

While welcoming the introduction of grants for the repair of Ottoman timber houses, the mission highlighted the continuing degradation of many of these structures for which the Committee has requested action since 2004. In the meantime, urban renewal projects have resulted in some being demolished that were considered irreparable. As urban renewal projects are being actively developed in seven extensive areas, there is an urgent need for the development of the overall long term conservation strategy for the Ottoman houses, as requested by the Committee, so that clear parameters can be been provided to demonstrate that these projects will not result in further demolition.

While the Management Plan has been revised, and this is welcomed, it still needs further work to include a detailed list of the attributes of Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), which should underpin its policies, inform the development of major projects and provide the basis of HIAs.

It is recommended that the Committee express concern that the pace of change in the Historic Peninsula is resulting in a plethora of major projects, both for conservation and new construction, for which no details or HIAs have been provided for review before decisions are taken, and in a large number of renewal area projects which bring many social benefits, but for which no details have been provided to address concerns, expressed by the Committee over more than a decade, that they will prioritize new construction over restoration, leading to further erosion of the attributes of OUV.

To encourage an immediate and proportional response to these structural problems that have the potential to cumulatively impact on OUV, it is also recommended that the Committee request the State Party to clearly define the attributes of OUV in the Management Plan; to ensure the World Heritage Centre is notified of all major projects along with HIAs; and to develop a long-term Conservation strategy for the Ottoman timber buildings, all by 1 February 2018.

Decision Adopted: 41 COM 7B.52

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/17/41.COM/7B.Add,
  2. Recalling Decision 39 COM 7B.83, adopted at its 39th session (Bonn, 2015),
  3. Welcomes the re-routing of the Eurasia Tunnel approach road to the south of the Marble Tower, thus reuniting it with the Land Walls;
  4. Notes with concern, nonetheless, that the eight-lane Eurasia Tunnel approach road with two grade-separated interchanges at Yenikapı and Samatya, has had overall a severe impact on the southern edge of the historic peninsula, cutting off the city from the sea, and confirming the potential ‘severe negative impact’ assessed by the 2012 Reactive Monitoring mission;
  5. Notes that the Yenikapı reclamation project has significantly changed the shape of the historic peninsula; and that a large white ‘Activity Tent’ is in course of construction, which taken together, impact on the historic form and some views of the silhouette of the peninsula;
  6. Regrets that the Heritage Impact Assessments (HIAs) for these projects and engagement with the Committee were only undertaken after approval had been given, as has been the case with all recent major infrastructure projects, since the Haliç metro bridge, thus leaving only minor opportunities for amendment;
  7. Also notes that a similar situation prevails for the already approved Planetarium and Istanbul City Museum within the Topkapı Cultural Park, and the Dardanelles 1915 Museum and four-storey performance hall, that have been submitted for approval; and requests the State Party to submit full details of all these projects to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies;
  8. Expresses concern that in spite of requests for action since 2004, and a request for the development of a long term conservation strategy, the corpus of Ottoman timber houses continues to deteriorate, with some being demolished as part of Urban Renewal Projects;
  9. While also welcoming the revision of the Management Plan, further notes that it still needs to be supplemented with full details of the attributes of Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) to underpin its policies, inform the development of major projects and provide the basis of HIAs;
  10. Further expresses concern that although Urban Renewal areas can provide social benefits, no reassurances have so far been provided that the many areas now being renewed will not suffer loss of historic fabric;
  11. Notes furthermore that as the pace of change in the Historic Peninsula is resulting in a plethora of major projects, both for conservation and new construction that have the potential to cumulatively impact highly negatively on OUV, and considers that as an immediate, firm response is needed to these structural problems, also requests the State Party to:
    1. Define the attributes that convey the OUV of the property in the Management Plan and where necessary survey and document these attributes, before the Plan is approved,
    2. Commit to ensuring that all proposed or ongoing major projects which may affect the OUV of the property are subject to HIAs and notified to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies before an irreversible commitment is made,
    3. Submit to the World Heritage Centre for review by the Advisory Bodies, details of current major new projects for the Planetarium and Istanbul City Museum within the Topkapı Cultural Park, the Dardanelles 1915 Museum and performance hall; and for current major restoration projects, including the rehabilitation of the Land Walls, the Bucoleon Palace, the reconstruction of the Hagia Sophia medrese, and the Zeyrek and Chora mosques,
    4. Devise an overall long-term conservation strategy for the Ottoman/vernacular timber buildings, based on documentation of what remains and an emergency plan to stem ongoing decay and loss;
  12. Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2018, 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 42nd session in 2018.

Decision Adopted: 41 COM 8B.48

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Documents WHC/17/41.COM/8B.Add and WHC/17/41.COM/INF.8B1.Add,
  2. Approves the proposed minor modification to the boundaries of the Historic Areas of Istanbul, Turkey;
  3. Recommends the State Party to consider simplifying the names of the four component parts of the property.