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Post 2017 WHC

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Author evilweevil
#16 | Posted: 12 Jul 2017 03:55 
Here is some background info on Vienna being put on the Danger list, as this was only mentioned in passing during the discussions on new inscriptions. UNESCO has apparently given the city until February 2018 to come up with a solution (i.e., change the plans). The planned building in question is actually not on the outskirts, as someone mentioned in the forum, but right in the core zone. I really fear that by the next WHC session, there will be one site less on the list.

https://www.thelocal.at/20170707/unesco-puts-viennas-historic-centre-on-in-danger-lis t-austria

Author Solivagant
#17 | Posted: 12 Jul 2017 05:58 | Edited by: Solivagant 
background info on Vienna being put on the Danger list,

It seems to me that ICOMOS/UNESCO hasn't really worked out a reasonable approach for the conservation of "living cities". IMO their policies are oriented too much to a "preserve in aspic" philosophy more appropriate to archaeological or natural sites. They also seem to have an almost obsessive desire to preserve sight lines and prevent significant buildings being built even when they are outside the core area (OK - so that isn't the case with Vienna but it is with much of the proposed Liverpool developments and with certain other "causes celebres" from recent years).
They don't seem prepared to accept that the city-scapes they are trying to "preserve" were themselves the result of an organic growth which arises from a continuity of styles reflecting the tastes of the time in which each building was constructed. In some cases the OUV might be based on a homogeneity of style within a single quarter which is worth maintaining within that area but, in many other cases, such living cites demonstrate a mixture of good, bad and even ugly which is itself a testimony to the economic ups and downs, changes in style and technology etc through which the city has developed. Whilst no one would suggest that the "ugly" should be actively encouraged, there should surely be a degree of humility from those making judgements on such matters in recognising that their assessments are inevitably subjective. If we can accept that a 60's "Brutalist" structure can have merit 50 years later we surely need to be careful in placing too many restrictions on contemporary developments which would prevent the creation of what might years later also be seen as worthwhile additions to the city-scape!

Given the approach being taken by ICOMOS/UNESCO I am somewhat surprised that countries are still putting forward city-scapes for nomination. If we take Eritrea for instance, which has just inscribed Asmara, has the current dictatorship really thought through the restrictions it might face on future developments it might want to make within that city - or does it hope to be judged on different criteria from Liverpool and Vienna? And if Eritrea were to turn into a more "normal" developing economy how restrictive might those "purist" ICOMOS judgements be on economic developments on which the country's wealth will depend. Yet France has happily greatly expanded the inscribed area of Strasbourg - and thereby made itself to some extent a hostage to fortune regarding developments in buffer zones even if it honestly intends preserving the built fabric of the core zone.

I also feel that there is an element of "power playing" in all this. Some guy from ICOMOS goes to Liverpool, a "working city" inscribed for being just that, who makes recommendations about sight lines etc more appropriate to a beautiful landscape. ICOMOS puts thse forward and, in the sort of badly structured and often incoherent and politically oriented discussions which those of us who have just watched the recent WHC will recognise, a decision is made. The state party hopes to fudge its way through this to ensure that a degree of "reality" informs the result, but, as far as both ICOMOS and UNESCO is concerned, a "line" has been drawn which impinges directly on their honour/credibility and on that of the Convention itself. So - battle lines are drawn and the issue becomes one of diplomatic compromise (or not as the case may be!) more than one of genuine preservation issues and rational aesthetics!

Does anyone know of any papers etc discussing this entire issue of how to reconcile necessary economic, and stylist/techonlogy development with preservation in "living" cities? What factors should be involved in determining what should constitute a "legitimate"/acceptable development and how restrictive should policies be?

Author meltwaterfalls
#18 | Posted: 12 Jul 2017 06:46 
Thanks for that added detail evilweevil.

Just to give people a little bit of an idea the propossed building is going to be just outside the Ring road that loops around the historic core of the city.

This is the propossed building, and the diagram shows the original propossal and the revised heights.

If I understand correctly it is going to be on this site. The new building is going to mostly mirror the existing hotel and then have a square tower which is approximatley 20-25m taller than the already existing structure.

I thought I would try and see what tall buildings are already in and around the core zone of central Vienna. It looks like there is something fairly comperable, on the opposite side of the Ring is the Ringturm which is roughly the same shape as the taller tower in the new propossal. However the Ringturm is 73m tall, the new building is propossed to be 66m so the new threat will be slightly smaller and slightly further from the centre.

In this image from the tower of Stephandom you can see the Ringturm, (hopefully dead centre of the image, the white sqaure tower just by the last dip in the hills). Measuring the distance from the image to the Ringturm it is 950m, where as the new propossed building will be slightly closer at 860m, but in the opposite direction.

Now that shows things removed of local context; perhaps the location next to a green space or a potential pipeline of other tall buildings etc may pose bigger issues. However I would struggle to see that this propossed building, shorter than other similarly placed buildings will truly stop Vienna from having OUV or destroy the urban and architectural qualities of the Historic Centre of Vienna bear outstanding witness to a continuing interchange of values throughout the second millennium.

In much the same way that a bridge, that you can't see from the city centre, that allievients traffic in the said historic centre didn't destroy my understanding of the OUV of Dresden when I last visited. And perhaps in the same way that the World Heritage Committee don't think that the tall buildings in the background here destroy the OUV of the ruins of a Portuguese Baroque church in Macau.

Author Khuft
#19 | Posted: 12 Jul 2017 07:01 
It seems to me that ICOMOS/UNESCO hasn't really worked out a reasonable approach for the conservation of "living cities".

Your analysis is spot on. Vienna is actually a good exampe - within the inscribed part of the site, you have Art Nouveau masterpieces such as the Secession building (that went against everything Vienna stood for until then) or the Looshaus just in front of the Hofburg (which even the Emperor detested). More recently, the Haashaus was built just in front of St Stephan's Cathedral - offering a very interesting contrast (and, to my knowledge, also part of the inscribed site).

The discussion in the case of Vienna, Liverpool, and before it Dresden focuses on quite esoteric concepts which are not adopted consistently. Sightlines are considered issues in some cases, but in others are completely irrelevant - no-one ever mentioned the Shard or the Gherkin influencing the sightlines around the Tower of London, the London Eye infriging on Westminster, not even to mention the myriad of casinos having any impact on Macau.

The consequence is of course that by delisting such sites as Vienna, Liverpool or Dresden for such minor infringements, the sites lose the protection and international focus that a WHC inscription brings with it - being ultimately less protected if, further down the line, some real damage (Shakriziabs-style) is done.

Author nfmungard
#20 | Posted: 12 Jul 2017 08:08 
It's kind of weird that the WHC has little to none reservation in overriding ICOMOS recommendations when it comes to the question of inscriptions. But they hold so much sway after the sites are inscribed.

Looking at what countries run afoul and for what it is a bit striking that the culprits are primarily western, liberal European countries (Germany, UK, Austria). Looking at the composition of the WHC you see that the majority is from other parts of the world. While it also seems that following protocol is important, delisting sites that still have loads of OUV while adding sites that have little, will damage the process over time.

At the end, what this will result in are more focused and specialized inscriptions.. Dresden would have fared better had they stuck to the inner city. Vienna could have split into two components (Art Deco, Sites of Imperial Vienna). And Liverpool should have stuck to the dock itself and no periphery.

Author hubert
#21 | Posted: 12 Jul 2017 09:32 
I agree with the previous comments, Vienna will still have enough OUV even with the new high-rise building, and a deletion from the list would be strange, similar as in Liverpool or a few years ago in Dresden, in particular with regard to threats in other parts of the world.
A major issue for ICOMOS is that the famous "Canaletto view" (from the Belvedere to the inner City would be destroyed. Well, the photos in this German Wiki article show that even today the view has not much in common with the painting from the 18th century.

However, there are also other aspects on that issue. The planned building complex is controversial in Vienna. The opponents criticize that luxury apartments are planned and a new hotel, the citizens in Vienna have no benefit: "the city government jeopardizes the World Heritage title just for the profit of private investors." It is suspected that similar projects will follow once the World Heritage status is gone, so that affordable housing in the city centre will become scarce. ICOMOS would have no concerns if the height would be limited to 45 m (the height of the existing hotel). So it's a bargaining for a few more or less floors (= more or less profit for investors).

Dresden: the Waldschlößchen bridge was also highly controversial among the citizens, not only because of the world heritage status. The river banks east and west of the bridge with its wide meadows is a popular recreation area close to the city centre. Many Dresden citizens would have preferred a (more expensive) tunnel.

Author Solivagant
#22 | Posted: 12 Jul 2017 10:22 
The planned building complex is controversial in Vienna.

Of course ALL developments in ALL cities (certainly in liberal democracies) are "controversial". There are people (and I am not saying they are right or wrong) who would want to prevent all developments - and, given the political leanings of some of them, certainly all developments which generate that "dirty" word "Profit".
There were comments during the discussions on the Liverpool development at this year's WHC where the ICOMOS rep talked about the developments not generating benefit for the ordinary people of Liverpool (or words to that effect). I think this is ICOMOS moving beyond its remit. Is it qualified to judge "economic good", how that is best achieved and to whom it will flow?
In fact ICOMOS and UNESCO have become something of a cats paw which is brought into play as an ally by all sorts of groups who want to prevent development. They should NOT allow themselves to be so used and should judge matters on agreed conservation criteria and leave the (more or less) democratic process of the country concerned to determine the common good . The sole issue for ICOMOS and UNESCO should be whether OUV has been destroyed The basic trouble is that there are no agreed criteria for determining that for living cities other than those which ICOMOS and "conservation professionals" have determined and which, as Khuft says are "esoteric" and "inconsistently applied"!

Author hubert
#23 | Posted: 12 Jul 2017 16:54 
Of course ALL developments in ALL cities (certainly in liberal democracies) are "controversial".

Sure, I totally agree that ICOMOS and the WHC should prevent themselves to get included in such a discussion. And as already mentioned, I think that the questionable project does not affect the OUV of Vienna. But the current issue is not only caused by an inappropriate position of ICOMOS or the WHC. A city like Vienna should provide a reasonable and sustainable concept of urban planning including all aspects: preservation and economics and social aspects. That goes far beyond the question whether WH status will sustain or not. Vienna is extremely proud of its history and culture. But currently the confidence is quite low that the city will find adequate answers to the challenge of urban development in the near future. It is not enough to say we preserve the historic buildings and all things around can be ruled by economics and money.
Of course, clear criteria by ICOMOS how to deal with such issues would be helpful, but Vienna is also to blame for their almost complete ignorance to the concerns of ICOMOS.

Author evilweevil
#24 | Posted: 12 Jul 2017 18:07 
Yes, the ignorance on this issue by the city government is astonishing. When Vienna was inscribed in 2001, UNESCO already criticized the height of some existing buildings and apparently asked Vienna to guarantee that in the future, no higher buildings would be permitted in the core zone. I also think that UNESCO doesn't apply its criteria consistently and delisting would be too strong a reaction, but it shouldn't have come as a big surprise to the city that UNESCO reacted in this way.

Author elsslots
#25 | Posted: 14 Jul 2017 00:08 
Interesting behind-the-scenes about what really went on on the floor (and before) during the Hebron vote


Author Solivagant
#26 | Posted: 16 Jul 2017 12:23 | Edited by: Solivagant 
Are there not a couple of outstanding "update issues" which have got "forgotten" with all that effort on the site update and the WHC?

Nunnery Connection - http://www.worldheritagesite.org/forums/index.php?action=vthread&forum=5&topic=2118

Sequencing of "Most Valuable Sites" - http://www.worldheritagesite.org/forums/index.php?action=vthread&forum=16&topic=2121& page=24#msg17589 (Posted: 10 Jul 2017 01:01)

Author elsslots
#27 | Posted: 16 Jul 2017 12:45 

Author Solivagant
#28 | Posted: 20 Jul 2017 14:20 | Edited by: Solivagant 
Yazd still seems to be on Iran's list of T List sites on this site if reached through the Tentative tab (but points from there to the Inscribed site rather than the old T List entry) but not if reached via the "Country" search. I have refreshed and refreshed and refreshed - so it is not MY cache!!!

Author elsslots
#29 | Posted: 20 Jul 2017 14:34 
Yazd still seems to be on Iran's list of T List sites on this site

Fixed it!

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