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Historic Centre of Brugge

Belgium
Factors affecting the property in 2010*
  • Housing
  • Major visitor accommodation and associated infrastructure
  • Renewable energy facilities
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports

Potential impacts of new construction projects

International Assistance: requests for the property until 2010
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved : 0 USD
Missions to the property until 2010**

March 2010 : World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS mission

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2010

A joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS reactive monitoring mission took place from 23 to 25 March 2010 in response to the Committee request made during its 33rd session. On 19 April 2010 the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property inscribed on the World Heritage List containing detailed information concerning the « History Museum » and the «Casselberg, Sept Tours and Bouclier Français» projects; the report had been studied by the mission team. The mission report is available at the following Internet address: https://whc.unesco.org/fr/sessions/34COM/

As requested by the Committee, the mission studied the «History Museum» and «Casselberg, Sept Tours and Bouclier Français» projects, and also examined the overall conservation of the property.

a) History Museum

This development project planned at the site of the ancient St John’s Hospital site (Oud Sint-Jan) by a private company is to build a History Museum (digital) and an underground parking and transform the recovered space into a vast urban park. An initial proposal (2006) only required the listing of a coach house as a historic monument to be revoked to permit its demolition: this revocation which was accepted by the local authorities, was twice cancelled by the State Council. A new concept far more idiosyncratic and contemporary than the earlier proposal was presented in 2008. As this did not receive approval from the Flemish Immovable Heritage Administration, the investors withdrew their proposal and chose to estabish the museum in a listed building on the market place. The State Party report indicates however that the future of the Oud Sint-Jan site remains uncertain.

The joint reactive monitoring mission considers that the general concept for development of this area represents a threat to the integrity of the social and religious institutions of the St John’s Hospital. Therefore, any future project (including the proposed underground parking) should be subject to rigorous assessment of impacts on the Outstanding Universal Value, authenticity and integrity of the property.

b) Casselberg, Sept Tours and Bouclier français Project

This project concerns the transformation of some historic houses in the centre of Brugge into a hotel complex comprising 120 rooms. To guarantee the cost-effectiveness of this project, more recent buildings judged to be of low heritage value have been demolished to make room for a contemporary wing, the concept of which has been revised several times to take account of the views of the different bodies consulted. The project was finally approved by the consultative organizations, including the Flemish Immovable Heritage administration and the Commission for Urban Aesthetic. The hotel complex became operational towards the end of 2009.

According to the mission report, restoration work on the historic buildings has been carried out with professionalism, under the supervision of the Department for the Preservation of Monuments and Sites, and Urban Renovation. The new contemporary wing respects the volume and proportions of the ancient telephone centre. However, the conflictual situation that marked the beginnings of this project highlights the weakness of the current legal and administrative framework as regards conservation of the built heritage.

c) General state of conservation of the property

While considerable resources have been allocated in the long-term to restoration projects, to the improvement of public spaces and to the revitalization of cultural life in the city, the joint reactive monitoring mission noted, nevertheless, signs of gradual erosion of the attributes that convey Outstanding Universal Value. The mission identified the following factors that contribute to this erosion:

  • The ambiguous legal status of the property inscribed on the World Heritage List within the national legal system
  • Local policy towards buildings perceived as being of « minor value »
  • A liberal approach to the transformation of urban typology
  • Economic development and constructions immediately adjacent to the property
  • The visual impact of major projects for industrial installations in the surrounding landscape.
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    The mission also noted that a 50m protection zone exists around the listed monuments. However, major transformation and demolition work is authorized in these zones. Moreover, buildings of importance in the urban fabric that contribute to its coherence have no heritage preservation status despite their essential role for the integrity of the property; some have even been demolished. It would appear that there is little understanding of how the property as a whole conveys Outstanding Universal Value. Instead, attention is focused on a number of specific buildings within the city. The redevelopment of some areas does not respect the overall coherence and distinctiveness of the city, and the mission noted the large-scale development of commercial and administrative areas in close proximity to the property that were in conflict with urban functions and fabric of the historic city, impacting negatively on the integrity of the property.

    Although Brugge does not possess a Statement of Outstanding Universal Value, the ICOMOS evaluation and the agreed upon justification of criteria, clearly indicate that Brugge’s value is associated with its outstanding architectural ensemble. This architectural ensemble reflects the entirety of its medieval fabric and its urban structure and how its historic fabric has evolved over the centuries, the Gothic style being an integral part of the identity of the city. Brugge is extraordinarily coherent and contained within its medieval walls. The general aspect of the city and the area it occupies are crucial to an understanding of how the medieval city has conserved intact its form and architectural details and the way in which the evolution of the city is linked to the Gothic style of the buildings. In Brugge no other style is reflected in its evolution, as opposed to many other cities. It is for this reason that its coherence is of crucial importance.

    The mission deemed that there was a need to classify the property within the national legislative framework as an « urban landscape » to protect the coherence of the overall urban form. The mission also considered that the study of specific urban areas should be undertaken to define the urban typology and set out conditions for possible future development. The mission recommends that clearer and more effective links need to be fostered between the development interests of the city and the conservation needs of the Historic Centre of Brugge, by integrating the requirements of heritage conservation into regional planning documents. The mission further recommends that a visual impact study be undertaken for the important views from and towards the World Heritage property, taking into account the historic and principal perspectives and the results incorporated into urban planning documents to avoid a negative visual impact on the property.

    The World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS consider that the development of these two projects emphasizes the weakness in the planning and management of the World Heritage property that appears to be reactive rather than proactive, and hope that appropriate development within the framework of the approved constraints will be encouraged. They further consider that a better governance could help to reduce these tensions and that an improved management system, defined in an approved management plan, based on the approved Statement of Outstanding Universal Value, could greatly improve the protection of the historic centre. They also consider that it would be beneficial to establish an advisory panel of experts for the World Heritage property that may be consulted as regards important projects and provide advice on the suitability of projects at a very early stage.

    d) Construction of two wind turbines

    In April 2010 the State Party informed the World Heritage Centre of the construction project, by the Final Energy Company, of two wind turbines in the proximity of the Historic Centre of Brugge with a total height of (mast and rotor) of 113 meters; the wings of the rotor measure 82 meters. An impact study undertaken from different areas in the city demonstrated that the wind turbines would be visible above the historic buildings and this in several places. The State Party therefore requested the advice of the World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS regarding this project.

    In its evaluation, ICOMOS considers that the documentation provided clearly demonstrates that the wind turbines would be visible from within the inscribed property and would negatively affect its integrity and its Outstanding Universal Value. The World Heritage Centre drew the same conclusion. In view of these comments, the State Party informed that this project has been abandoned.

    The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies are concerned about the gradual erosion of the urban fabric due to the lack of protection of the buildings, the urban landscape and the urban typology, as well as the lack of effective urban planning policies respecting the attributes that convey the Outstanding Universal Value of the property.

    They are also concerned about the threats emerging in the environment surrounding the property and from the commercial and administrative districts.

    The World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies consider that an urgent response is needed to the mission recommendations calling for an improved understanding of the specific attributes of the city that convey the Outstanding Universal Value, an improved protection of the historic urban fabric, improved planning policies and a better governance that integrates conservation with development.

    They commend the decision of the State Party to withdraw the scheme for the two large wind turbines.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2010
34 COM 7B.79
Historic Centre of Brugge (Belgium) (C 996)

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-10/34.COM/7B.Add,

2. Recalling Decision 33 COM 7B.94 adopted at its 33rd session (Seville, 2009),

3. Expresses its concern regarding the conclusions of the mission that indicate the gradual erosion of the attributes that convey the Outstanding Universal Value and, consequently, this erosion threatens the integrity of the property in terms of overall coherence and distinctiveness;

4. Strongly recommends to the State Party to implement the recommendations of the mission, in particular:

a) Explore ways to list the property in the framework of national legislation as an "urban landscape" to protect the coherence and the overall urban form,

b) Undertake the study of the specific urban areas to define the urban typology and the conditions for possible future development,

c) Promote clearer and more effective links between the development interests of the city and the need to conserve the Historic Centre of Brugge, by incorporating the requirements of heritage conservation into regional planning documents,

d) Identify important views from and towards the property and incorporate their protection into urban planning documents,

e) Strengthen governance of the property to make it more proactive and incorporate this into the approved urban plan based on the approved Statement of Outstanding Universal Value,

f) Envisage the establishment of an advisory panel of experts specifically created for the property inscribed on the World Heritage List, that may be consulted as regards important projects and provide advice on their suitability at an early stage;

5. Requests the State Party to develop by 1 February 2011, in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, a draft Statement of Outstanding Universal Value for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 36th session in 2012;

6. Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre by 1 February 2012, a detailed report on progress achieved in the implementation of the above-mentioned recommendations for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 36th session in 2012.

Draft decision: 34 COM 7B.79

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-10/34.COM/7B.Add,

2. Recalling Decision 33 COM 7B.94 adopted at its 33rd session (Seville, 2009),

3. Expresses its concern regarding the conclusions of the mission that indicate the gradual erosion of the attributes that convey the Outstanding Universal Value and, consequently, threaten the integrity of the property in terms of overall coherence and distinctiveness;

4. Strongly recommends to the State Party to implement the recommendations of the mission, in particular:

a) explore ways to list the property in the framework of national legislation as an « urban landscape » to protect the coherence and the overall urban form,

b) undertake the study of the specific urban areas to define the urban typology and the conditions for possible future development,

c) promote clearer and more effective links between the development interests of the city and the need to conserve the Historic Centre of Brugge, by incorporating the requirements of heritage conservation into regional planning documents,

d) identify important views from and towards the property and incorporate their protection into urban planning documents,

e) strengthen governance of the property to make it more proactive and incorporate this into the approved urban plan based on the approved Statement of Outstanding Universal Value,

f) envisage the establishment of an advisory panel of experts specifically created for the property inscribed on the World Heritage List, that may be consulted as regards important projects and provide advice on their suitability at an early stage;

5. Requests the State Party to develop by 1 February 2011, in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS, a draft Statement of Outstanding Universal Value for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 36th session in 2012;

6. Also requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre by 1 February 2012, a detailed report on progress achieved in the implementation of the above-mentioned recommendations for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 36th session in 2012.

Report year: 2010
Belgium
Date of Inscription: 2000
Category: Cultural
Criteria: (ii)(iv)(vi)
Documents examined by the Committee
arrow_circle_right 34COM (2010)
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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