Year of inscription on the World Heritage List 1988
Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger 1990-2005
Previous Committee Decisions see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/119/documents/
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 164,115
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/119/assistance/
UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds
Previous monitoring missions
2002, 2004, 2005, 2006: World Heritage Centre missions
Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports
a) Inappropriate design and scale of new Ahmed Baba Cultural Centre in the buffer zone of the Sankore Mosque;
b) Approaches to the restoration of the Djingareyber Mosque;
c) Urban development pressure;
d) Flooding and rubbish disposal.
Illustrative material see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/119/
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2008
The State Party submitted its report on 7th February 2008. A joint World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS Mission visited Timbuktu 11-16 June 2008 to review the new Ahmed Baba Cultural Centre and its impact on the adjacent Sankore Mosque.
a) Sankore Mosque: construction of the Ahmed Baba CulturalCentre
At its last meeting the Committee noted that construction of the new Centre had commenced in July 2006 and that the State Party had not provided technical drawings, as requested in both Decisions 30 COM 7B.36 and 31 COM 7B.47, which would have allowed a full assessment of the project, including modifications to the design and scale to stop it overshadowing the Sankore Mosque. In its recommendation, the World Heritage Committee asked for the modified drawings to be provided by 31August 2007. This deadline was not met and furthermore no drawings were provided in advance of the mission.
On its site visit, the mission noted that construction work was well advanced and as much as 80% of the structural work had been completed for the manuscript storage and conservation offices, administration block and general library. Work on the display rooms and auditorium was about to be started. What remained to be constructed were the amphitheatre, the Ahmed Baba house, the classroom and the public toilets.
The mission noted that adobe blocks had been used either as filling between concrete structural members, or as a facing for certain areas. From a technical point of view, the mission considered the use of the adobe for facing structures was completely inappropriate given the large dimension of the adobe blocks used and because of the great risks of separation of the adobe blocks from their fixings (brick force). In addition, this technical solution would not help the building complement with the architecture of the Sankore Mosque.
After very careful consideration of the structures so far built, and of the technical drawings, the mission concluded that the structure of the Ahmed Baba Centre reacted adversely on the outstanding universal value of the Sankore Mosque, to which it is adjacent.
The mission considered that any new building should respect the role of Timbuktu as a centre of learning, and, in particular, its perhaps unique role in bringing together the worlds of ethics, aesthetics and knowledge in an unpretentious way. This subtle interface between spiritual and temporal knowledge should be understood, celebrated and safeguarded and reflected in new structures. However, the mission considered that the mechanical nature of the new building could never satisfactorily fuse with the qualities that the Sankore Mosque embodies.
The mission highlighted the following main areas of concern:
- The architectural design challenges rather than complements the Sankore Mosque and the traditional houses round about;
- The use of reinforced concrete, cannot be adapted to the earthen architecture of Timbuktu, is anti-ecological and has a very high environmental and maintenance costs;
- There is an absence of a relationship between the building and its environment, from which ever way it is viewed;
- Little account was taken of local views: the community leaders have expressed concern at the lack of their involvement and the difficulties in meeting with the architect from South Africa, who only made irregular visits;
- This lack of local contact seems to have led to a lack of understanding of specific climatic and cultural constraints to be addressed in the storage parts of the buildings to cope with sever sandstorms that affect the city;
- The mission could not see any rationale for the overall size of the structure or for including under one roof residential and administrative functions. They considered that had the State Party provided the necessary drawings when requested in July 2006, a more decentralised arrangements could have been probably worked out. As it is, the Sankore Mosque is now overshadowed by the new structure and no longer has a central and dominating role on the area, much to the concern of the Imam.
The advanced state of execution of the project does not allow the possibility of much change or adaptation so as to limit its impact on the integrity of the property. In conformity with paragraphs 177 and 179 of the Operational Guidelines, the mission concluded that the new construction of the Ahmed Baba Centre has considerably affected the outstanding universal value of the Sankore Mosque. The advanced state of execution of the project, does not allow the possibility of much change or adaptation so as to limit its impact on the integrity of the site. Nevertheless, the mission considered that urgent changes need to be made to mitigate its impact. They recommended that the amphitheatre, the Ahmed Baba house, the classroom, and the block of the toilets, as envisaged in the architectural plans, should be built away from the Sankore Mosque and not next to it. In place of the proposed buildings an urban open space should be created which could help soften slightly the impact of the new building and allow to retain the urban coherence of the historic square of Sankore.
During the site visit, the mission noted a new extension to the Sankore Mosque built in June 2007 thanks to a gift of 40 000 dollars from President of Mauritania to the Imam of the Mosque of Sankore. The purpose of this gift was to recall that the Mosque of Sankore was built by a woman of Moorish origin, and that its work largely supported the development of the famous University of Sankore. The extension consists of a block of two classrooms, and of a block of toilets, all built in stone masonry with corrugated iron roof and metal doors and windows. The mission considered that this complex impacts adversely on the values and authenticity of the Sankore Mosque. Instead of growing out of the building traditions and uses of the mosque, the new building looks more like a building store. The mission strongly recommended that this new extension be demolished in order not to accentuate the already severe impact caused by the Ahmed Baba Centre.
b) Djingareyber Mosque
The State Party was requested at the last World Heritage Committee to provide, as quickly as possible, all technical documents on the proposed new 4 year restoration project for the Djingareyber Mosque, being carried out by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture. No documents had been received before the mission and in its report the State Party gave few details of this major project.
In February 2008 experts in earthen architecture from the Terra 2008 conference in Bamako (organized by the Getty Conservation Institute, under the aegis of the ICOMOS International Scientific Committee on the Earthen Architectural Heritage) visited Timbuktu. Several, as individuals, expressed concern at the methods and approaches of this project which were impacting on the visual values of the mosque, although some reacted positively.
The mission noted that the first phase of restoration work was a pilot project undertaken from November 2006 to July 2007. This work had included drainage and paving around the mosque, re-rendering walls in bad condition and in one zone of the roof, replacing some 50% of the beams, above which was a heavy build-up of mud plaster. The masons in charge of the project locally clearly have good technical expertise; however, there is a need to document what they are doing on an on-going basis and to record the starting point for their work. All documentation on the project needs to be assembled and submitted for scrutiny to the World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS.
There is also the need to find a balance between new technical solutions and preserving traditional and regular practices of maintenance of the mosque. Thus there should be a structured debate on the appropriateness of interventions before they happen.
c) Development pressures
A further concern expressed by the mission was that the Ahmed Baba project could be an exemplar for other major construction projects, arising both internationally and locally, that could dominate the old city and be completely antagonistic to its qualities.
The Old City of Timbuktu is currently experiencing considerable development pressures in the form of large projects involving international partners started over the past three years, or which are planned for the near future. These involve the acquisition of large plots to establish public buildings, luxurious residences and the transformations of existing buildings without taking account of their patrimonial value. Taken together these could put in danger the whole of the old city and the inscribed property. There is a lack of clear rules for building permits, and this combined with lack of overall management could leave the possibility of even more uncontrolled initiatives in the future.
d) Timbuktu town
The State Party in its report draws attention to the considerable problems facing the earth buildings of the Old City. These include:
- Degradation of buildings due to lack of regular maintenance;
- Abandonment of certain houses;
- Invasion of public places by plastic waste and foul water;
- Noise and vibrations from motor traffic;
- Drastic changes to the facades of houses through changes in materials and design.
No progress is noted in addressing these issues.
A condition of the property being taken off the Danger List at the 29th session in 2005, was that the State Party should provide a management and rehabilitation plan to facilitate the sustainable development of the Old City. The State Party says that in July 2006 such a plan was drawn up- and some activities of the management plan have been implemented but not as it was expected. The State Party was also requested to undertake an inventory of the Old City buildings as a prelude, it was envisaged, to a possible extension of the property in the future to cover the Old City, or part of the Old City.
Since 2005 there appears to have no positive progress on reversing the loss of value of the earthen architecture in the Old City. The collection of courtyard houses in the Old City is of extreme importance as part of the setting and context for the three mosques inscribed on the list.
e) Corrective measures
The mission recommended the following measures to be implemented:
- Re-location of the amphitheatre, the Ahmed Baba house, the classroom and toilets to another location, in order to allow the creation of an urban open space which could help soften slightly the impact of the new building and allow to keep the urban coherence of the historic square of Sankore;
- The creation of a national Coordinating committee for Timbuktu, which would be the only authority to receive and evaluate projects which could impact on the outstanding universal value of the property;
- The evaluation of the various existing plans and other studies (SDU, PSA, INYPSA, etc), to inform the development of a master plan for the Old City of Timbuktu, which would address the aspirations of a city of the 21st century while preserving inscription on the World Heritage list;
- The development of a detailed building regulation and a land-use plan for the core and buffer zones;
- A plan for the participation of the population of the town in matters of heritage so that it can in practice benefit from the projects and development;
- Extension of the boundaries of the World Heritage property to cover the whole of the Old City, in order to protect the monuments, as well as their urban context;
- Accelerated implementation of the short and medium term actions envisaged in the management plan.
f) List of World Heritage in Danger
It should be recalled that at its 29th session, the World Heritage Committee considered that the possibility of Danger listing should be considered if the State Party had failed to make progress to address the problems of the Old City.
The mission, in accordance with Article 11, Paragraph 4 of the Convention, concluded that Timbuktu meets all the conditions set in Paragraph 177 and 179 of the Operational Guidelines for an inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
During a debriefing meeting for the mission which took place on 16 June 2008 in Bamako (Mali), in the presence of the Secretary Generals of the Ministries for Culture and Education, the State Party took note of the possibility of Danger listing and expressed its readiness to implement the corrective measures suggested by the mission for consideration by the World Heritage Committee. The State Party expressed its wish that UNESCO and the whole of the international community might be able to assist them to implement the corrective measures suggested in view of the very limited financial means at their disposal.
Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre, ICOMOS and ICCROM
Decision Adopted: 32 COM 7B.49
The World Heritage Committee,
1. Having examined Document WHC-08/32.COM/7B.Add.2 and draft Decision 32 COM 7B.49 Rev,
2. Recalling Decision 31 COM 7B.47, adopted at its 31st session (Christchurch, 2007),
3. Deeply regrets that the State Party has completed 80% of the construction work for the new Ahmed Baba Cultural Centre without having provided new technical documents that could have permitted a review of the architectural design;
4. Acknowledges the restoration work being carried out on the Djingareyber Mosque but requests that this is adequately documented, with existing documentation being submitted to the World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS by 30 November 2008, and in future subject to approval on appropriate methods and materials before work commences;
5. Expresses its concern at the adverse impact of the new construction for the Ahmed Baba Centre on the Sankore Mosque that has caused a significant loss of its historical authenticity, as well as having had deleterious effect on its inherent characteristics;
6. Also expresses concern that little progress has been made in halting the decline of buildings in the Old City;
7. Strongly urges the State Party to implement the following corrective measures that will mitigate the threats facing the property:
a) re-location of the amphitheatre, the Ahmed Baba house, and any other planned development of the classroom and visitor facilities to another location, in order to allow the creation of an urban open space which would allow the retention of the urban coherence of the historic square of Sankore;
b) creation of a national coordinating committee for Timbuktu, which would be the only authority to receive and evaluate projects which could impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property;
c) evaluation of the various existing plans and other studies and the development of a Master plan for the Old City of Timbuktu, which would address both conservation and the aspirations of the city in the 21st century, while preserving the Outstanding Universal Value of the property;
d) development of detailed building regulations and a land-use plan for the property and buffer zones;
e) development of a plan for the participation of the population of the town in matters of heritage so that it can in practice benefit from the projects and development;
f) extension of the boundaries of the World Heritage property to cover the whole of the Old City, in order to protect the monuments, as well as their urban context;
g) accelerated implementation of the short and medium term actions envisaged in the management plan;
8. Invites the conservation community to support the State Party in it efforts to address the severe, cumulative threats that are impacting on this property;
9. Requests the State Party, in consultation with the World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies, to develop a draft Statement of Outstanding Universal Value including the conditions of integrity and authenticity, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 33rd session in 2009;
10. Also requests the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre / ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring mission, with the aim of assessing the progress made in the implementation of the corrective measures, and to identify possible alternatives for the provision of additional facilities;
11. Further requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 February 2009, a progress report on the state of conservation of the property and on the implementation of the above corrective measures, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 33rd session in 2009;
12. Decides requests moreover to apply the Reinforced Monitoring mechanism in monitoring the state of conservation to the property, and the World Heritage Centre to report on the results of the Reactive Monitoring mission undertaken, and on any other relevant decision with view to establishing prioritization and a timetable.