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Liverpool - "Mild mannered Dutchman gets angry" report

 
Author Solivagant
Partaker
#1 | Posted: 22 Nov 2011 07:27 | Edited by: Solivagant 
This report of the UNESCO "Heritage police" visit to Liverpool recently to investigate that citiy's proposed developments may or may not be correct but I rather like the image conjured up by this "At one point during the visit, the usually mild- mannered Dutchman Mr van Oers was so angered by the plans, he stormed: "This goes too far". "

Herewith the full newspaper report about the visit
http://www.liverpooldailypost.co.uk/liverpool-news/regional-news/2011/11/22/unesco-de mands-radical-changes-to-liverpool-waters-scheme-or-or-city-may-lose-world-heritage-s ite-92534-29817493/

This issue will run and run. UNESCO are also walking into a battle within Liverpool itself where the 2 sides in favour of and opposed to the proposed development want to
"use" UNESCO as a cat's paw for their own purposes. E.g "Heritage campaigner Wayne Colquhoun, who was instrumental in persuading Unesco to send its inspectors, said he hoped they would not repeat "past mistakes".
A bit more here on the Liverpool "opposition"
http://liverpoolpreservationtrust.blogspot.com/2011/06/liverpool-back-under-unesco-mi croscope.html

And here is a quote from the "other side"!
"It would be a tragedy for Liverpool's economic future if the area recently designated as an enterprise zone were to be stymied because of a status that brings little to Liverpool's reputation or economy."
He added that the World Heritage status is becoming a barrier to regeneration and the city should have "no hesitation in handing back the status" if it continues.
World Heritage Status is a nice claim to fame but economically and culturally it's as useful as a chocolate tea pot."
!! (Liverpool Business chairman Frank McKenna)

This link provides some background and also the names of the 3 UNESCO inspectors including the "angry" Mr van Oers!
http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/the-northerner/2011/nov/07/unesco-liverpool-waterfront



It is interesting to look at the background/CVs of these individuals who have been given such "power"!

Mr van Oers
A Dutch urban Planner has been employed by UNESCO for 10 years as a program specialist. His UNESCO activities are here
http://whc.unesco.org/en/178/?action=detail&order=1430
and a more detailed CV here
http://www.aeceventos.com.br/Site-Trans/home/cur/Ron%20Van.pdf
He is obviously all "fired up" for his "big moment" and has publicly stated how Liverpool will be an important piece of case law world wide! He has even given an interview here
http://blogs.liverpooldailypost.co.uk/dalestreetblues/2011/11/listen-to-ron-van-oers- on-the.html

Ms Patricia Alberth
A German "expert in development" employed by UNESCO as an "assistant Program Specialist". Her UNESCO activities are here
http://whc.unesco.org/en/178/?action=detail&order=116305
Not much more about her but she was with UNESCO in Bangkok for some years and seemed to specialise in Heritage Education. This presentation on "Cultural Mapping" by a Patricia S Alberth may be her work
http://www-docs.tu-cottbus.de/alumniplus/public/files/regensburg_2008/Cultural_Mappin g.pdf

Sr Giancarlo Barbato
An independent Italian Conservation Architect who seems to be representing ICOMOS. I can find very little about him on the Web but he seems to have worked on both Damascus and Fez.

I must admit that I can't get exercised about this development and the idea that it could destroy Liverpool's "OUV". Liverpool has been and is a vibrant and developing city and must continue to be so. The sort of criteria adopted to preserve mediaeval and renaissance city centres are just not appropriate for an industrial and trading city. And ICOMOS/UNESCO seem to have a fetish against skyscrapers. But i fear that, as with Dresden, UNESCO have hit upon Liverpool as a way of imposing its authority on other sites via a sacrificial cause celebre.

Author Khuft
Partaker
#2 | Posted: 22 Nov 2011 17:56 
Solivagant:

But i fear that, as with Dresden, UNESCO have hit upon Liverpool as a way of imposing its authority on other sites via a sacrificial cause celebre.


Indeed - seems quite typical of recent UNESCO behaviour. Key aspects of which seem to be:
a) Focus your wrath on recently inscribed sites where a new development is planned nearby (e.g.: there seem to have been few criticisms of various developments in London, even though the Tower of London is now surrounded by modern buildings, and the London Eye is directly opposite Westminster).

b) Focus the criticism on Western, democratic countries (e.g.: there was no peep with regard to any Chinese site - Macau's old town, for instance, is now completely dominated by the Grand Lisboa casino)

c) Ignore sites in Emerging countries which are really at risk - e.g. there was relatively little activity by UNESCO to do anything with regard the Libyan sites recently (or for that matter: sites in Syria, Yemen or Egypt).

The risk of all this is of course that UNESCO may alienate those countries which provide most of its budget. And by focusing on recently inscribed sites it increases the cost even further for the State Party: inscribing Westminster in the eighties was probably relatively cheap and straightforward - but getting Liverpool inscribed was certainly much more expensive (and time-consuming with regard to the preparation). So losing the World Heritage status for Liverpool would be even more bitter for the UK than losing it for one of the "old" sites.

Author winterkjm
Partaker
#3 | Posted: 23 Nov 2011 04:18 | Edited by: winterkjm 
I will not pretend to be an expert on the issue, but there does seem to be at legitimate concern regarding the massive project that is planned. There are many questions regarding the viabilty of the project and the massive cost (5.5 Billion pounds). Nevertheless, the tone from the Unesco representatives come off as extremely pompous. Liverpool may be put on the "in danger" list, but removing the site from the world heritage list seems unlikely in my opinion. Is any of the proposed project within the WHS boundaries, perhaps the buffer zone? It seemed like the project was north of the world heritage property, no? Seemingly, a major difference compared to the issues in Dresden.

Khuft's point about Unesco's "looking the other way" regarding emerging nations WHS is spot on. WHS in quite a few developing countries suffer a multitude of problems. (skyscrapers, pollution, mismanagement, over-crowding, etc) To a certain extent, I understand and agree with the logic, yet particularly when looking at world heritage in China something needs to be done. If China has enough funds to spend 200 million USD to prep a site for WHS, it can do more to protect the site from unregulated development.

Author meltwaterfalls
Partaker
#4 | Posted: 23 Nov 2011 07:49 | Edited by: meltwaterfalls 
winterkjm:
Is any of the proposed project within the WHS boundaries

Yep, it looks like the Stanley Docks Conservation area is the focus of these plans.

I was reading about this a few weeks back, and had the same thoughts as Solivagant
Solivagant:
I must admit that I can't get exercised about this development and the idea that it could destroy Liverpool's "OUV". Liverpool has been and is a vibrant and developing city and must continue to be so. The sort of criteria adopted to preserve mediaeval and renaissance city centres are just not appropriate for an industrial and trading city

Then I read this quote from Mr Colquhoun/ Liverpool Preservation Trust (there is a distinct lack of comments on any of the postings on their blog so I wonder what kind of following they have or if it is a case of someone shouting loudly)
"I fear that the people seem to want to turn our wonderful city into Shanghai-on-Mersey"
I would have thought that that was the precise OUV of Liverpool. The fact that it was a vibrant and fast developing mercantile port that was shaped architecturally and culturally by the demands of attracting new business and investment.

That being said, I'm not a huge fan of the Liverpool Waters proposal, it doesn't seem to be that interesting. But perhaps that is the kind of development that is needed to rejuavenate a presently derelict part of the city. Maybe UNESCO will use as its premise for de-listing, much like Dresden's bridge not being good enough perhaps this is just not a good enough propossal.

Author Solivagant
Partaker
#5 | Posted: 23 Nov 2011 13:40 | Edited by: Solivagant 
They are not just "hotheads" who are saying that, if it is the "development" or "WHS status" the "development" will "win" -and apparently there is no other foreseeable "game in town" for the development other than the current proposal, albeit no doubt with some wriggle room for further compromises whatever Peel says. But how bullish are UNESCO intending to be? Compromises to let it show some teeth are one thing but a wholesale rethink, removal of the Shanghai Tower etc etc seem unlikely? Liverpool isn't St Petersburg where Putin et al can decide whether a skyscraper is in Russia's interest or not!

"This year, an independent report commissioned by English Heritage warned the waterfront could lose its world heritage status because of the development plans. But Professor Michael Parkinson of Liverpool John Moores University said given a choice of no development in north Liverpool and losing the world heritage status, it was a no-brainer.

"Without doubt, it is a very good thing to have the world heritage status and I'm sure it's helpful in sharpening the city's image," he said. "But we cannot be preserved in aspic and we have to have development."

In the past decade, the city centre and waterfront have developed beyond recognition.

"It is good to have world heritage status, but we must also have development, and investment in north Liverpool is tremendously important. But it would be a pity if the plaque on the waterfront was taken away."

He praised the development on the waterfront with the Kings Dock, Arena and museum but said that north Liverpool "is the nut we still have to crack" in terms of development and economic growth."
(The Guardian 23 Nov)

Author Euloroo
Partaker
#6 | Posted: 23 Nov 2011 23:48 | Edited by: Euloroo 
Solivagant:
criteria adopted to preserve mediaeval and renaissance city centres are just not appropriate for an industrial and trading city

So based on the OUV, UNESCO would need to clearly demonstrate how the development damages:
1.) innovative technologies and methods in dock construction and port management;
2.) an exceptional testimony to the development of maritime mercantile culture; and
3.) an outstanding example of a world mercantile port city, which represents the early development of global trading and cultural connections.

Yep, not much there about pretty buildings!

Khuft:
Focus the criticism on Western, democratic countries

In fairness to UNESCO, democratic nations tend to have many more outspoken critics of those in authority, as is clearly being demonstrated in Liverpool! They are duty bound to at least be seen to listen to the complaints.

Author Solivagant
Partaker
#7 | Posted: 24 Nov 2011 02:54 | Edited by: Solivagant 
This long report, containing the history of the proposal and relevant documents http://blogs.liverpooldailypost.co.uk/dalestreetblues/WHS_dossier.pdf given to the UNESCO inspectors, contains a lot of interesting stuff. Certainly it shows that Liverpool has not been unaware of the potential impact of this development on its UNESCO status and has put a lot of effort into considering the matter. In fact an air of injured innocence pervades those parts compiled by Liverpool council (some parts have been produced by others including Peel) in particular the "unjust" way in which the 2011 World Heritage Committee made decisions on a report which Liverpool hadn't been given the chance to comment on and which it believes contains errors (see pp39).

Euloroo:
So based on the OUV, UNESCO would need to clearly demonstrate how the development damages:
1.) innovative technologies and methods in dock construction and port management;
2.) an exceptional testimony to the development of maritime mercantile culture; and
3.) an outstanding example of a world mercantile port city, which represents the early development of global trading and cultural connections.

Yep, not much there about pretty buildings!


Relating to the question of how the development impacts the OUV the report contains details concerning separate "Heritage Impact Assessments" carried out by "English Heritage" (summary only on page 99 see here for full report http://blogs.liverpooldailypost.co.uk/dalestreetblues/Liverpool%20Waters%20FINAL%20RE PORT.pdf ) Liverpool (page 88ff) and twice by Peel (carried out by a respected independent and named expert consultant) on differing proposals (page 90ff). The former is is the one which UNESCO has seized upon as "concluding that overall there will be a significantly damaging impact on OUV". Liverpool's case is that there are pros and cons but that, taken across all relevant factors, there are actually overall benefits to Liverpool's OUV from the development.

I think the most interesting aspect to me is the methodology used to try to establish whether/how/to what extent OUV is going to be impacted. The approach itself has obviously been "under development" recently since the papers state that the Peel assessment had used "a methodology similar to the one subsequently recommended by ICOMOS" .

Some Forum members may be more knowledgable about this methodology that I but it seems to consist of assessing the impact the development may have on a large range of factors regarding fabric and setting for each of the assets in the site and assigning an impact value to each from minor to major positive and negative. The overall result is then assessed. I think we have all used similar techniques in our own jobs there are statistical problems of course since one really needs also to "weight" the factors and the assets. My own view is that such methodologies need to be used carefully and not given "mathematical credibility"! One may try to impose scientific objectivity to these matters but often this just hides the subjective nature of the assessments!

The Dresden decision seemed to be based on the view that the Bridge "destroyed" the Dresden Elbe Valley's OUV. This is clearly nonsense it may have negatively impacted it to some degree but had it reduced it below a level ( i.e its UV had become less than "Outstanding"!) at which it still justified WHS status? I personally think not. Is the ICOMOS/UNESCO view that NOTHING should be done which in any way negatively impacts the OUV as assessed at inscription such an absolutist view would seem impossible to maintain. If not then how big a negative impact (allowing also for positive impacts in the equation) should be "allowed". I think there is a great deal of woolly thinking around these matters and UNESCO/ICOMOS hasn't really thought it all through hence the anomolies we all know about and the sense of injustice felt by those sites which are "targeted" by UNESCO!

Author Euloroo
Partaker
#8 | Posted: 24 Nov 2011 07:15 
Thanks for the source. I hadn't appreciated quite how much (40%) of the development is within the inscribed area. I have to say that the EH summary (and I haven't read their full submission) seems to be a lot of gobbledegook. I get the concerns about loosing views of the Victorian clock tower, harm to the integrity of underwater archaeology and even failure to deliver technological innovation (although this seems a little harsh) but I'm struggling to understand the rest, beyond the verbiage of "fundamental notions of form and function"!

Author Euloroo
Partaker
#9 | Posted: 7 Mar 2012 05:10 
Looks like the mild mannered Dutchman is going to have kittens...
URL

Author meltwaterfalls
Partaker
#10 | Posted: 7 Mar 2012 06:13 
Euloroo:
Looks like the mild mannered Dutchman is going to have kittens...

Well best of luck to Liverpool. I can't say I'm a particular fan of the new designs but actually doing something with the derelict land is good to see, just wish it was a little bit better.

I will imagine it will go the way of Dresden in terms of WHS status though as the tall buildings do impact on the core of the site.

Here is the reaction of some of the campaigners against the proposal, Mr Colquhoun of the Liverpool Preservation Trust comes across as being much more reasonable in this than his blog suggests he will be.
(also you get a good dose of the local scouse accent for those that haven't heard it before)

Author Euloroo
Partaker
#11 | Posted: 7 Mar 2012 07:05 | Edited by: Euloroo 
meltwaterfalls:
I will imagine it will go the way of Dresden in terms of WHS status

I tend to agree, but (dare I say it!) there are more important things than WH status. I'd like to see some interesting functions of the buildings, both internally and structurally.

Author Euloroo
Partaker
#12 | Posted: 2 Jun 2012 09:55 | Edited by: Euloroo 
Yep, World Heritage in Danger List with possible Deletion if Liverpool Waters goes ahead (p185).
whc.unesco.org/archive/2012/whc12-36com-7BAdde.pdf
On a related topic, interesting comment in the same paper on the Tower of London, that the Shard has compromised the visual integrity and that additional tall buildings could compromise OUV "possibly beyond repair"... I like the line, that the State Party "acknowledges the impacts on the visual integrity that have occurred as a result of past developments". So good thing they built Tower Bridge before they got inscription then!

What are they doing all day in Paris anyway? www.worldheritagesite.org Forum / What are they doing all day in Paris anyway? /
 Liverpool - "Mild mannered Dutchman gets angry" report

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