The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recently approved the construction of a metro bridge over İstanbul's Haliç (Golden Horn), which had led to concerns over the city's possible move from the organization's World Heritage List to the “in danger” list.
The question of İstanbul's removal from the list was brought to the agenda on claims that the city has failed to fulfill commitments to the protection of its historic sites. In debates that took place at the international level it was argued that the metro bridge project over the Golden Horn could damage İstanbul's historical silhouette, which is composed of Süleymaniye Mosque, Hagia Sophia and Sultanahmet (Blue Mosque).
A group of experts from UNESCO earlier submitted a report on the ongoing metro bridge being constructed over the Haliç to the international body's headquarters in Paris. The report on the metro bridge over the Haliç is one of the most important topics in determining whether the city can remain on the World Heritage List. An earlier UNESCO report highlighted that the bridge would negatively affect the silhouette of the historical peninsula. UNESCO experts, two German city planners and one consultant from Germany, Jordan and England each, came to İstanbul in early 2011 to monitor the municipality's work on the bridge and completed a report on the developments in February. A UNESCO science committee recently revealed the results of the report. The UNESCO officials asked Turkish authorities to make small revisions to the bridge project and did not ask that any major changes be made to the bridge's design.
The architect of the bridge, Hakan Kıran, told Today's Zaman that some people had misled the UNESCO officials by presenting them with incorrect information. Speaking about the result of the UNESCO report, Kıran said, “Contrary to the opposition, the bridge design with two piers and a metro station in the middle is understood to be the most appropriate design in terms of not affecting [İstanbul's] historical silhouette.”
Construction starts in June
Kıran explained that they are about to complete architectural and engineering work in line with the UNESCO recommendations, adding that the final results will be presented to an independent commission in a week. Kıran said they plan to start construction following a UNESCO meeting in June.
While arguing that those who oppose the design of the bridge, which will be made of two 50-meter-high piers and cables, are mistaken, Kıran continued: “They were suggesting a bridge that is made of many 12-meter-high piers and whose metro station is not on the bridge. We, in the light of scientific data, prepared a design that is the most appropriate for the seabed of the Golden Horn and the ecological, geological and historical state of the site. This design is also in line with UNESCO conditions and rules on urban construction. Those who didn't pay attention to us [our project] tried to mislead UNESCO all that time. All in all, we were right.”
UNESCO earlier rejected a request that İstanbul be removed from the World Heritage List and added to the List of World Heritage in Danger at a meeting in Brazil in late 2010; however, it did assign the city's local administrators a series of projects regarding the protection of İstanbul's historical heritage, to be completed by February.
İstanbul has been facing relegation to the UNESCO List of World Heritage in Danger since a 2006 meeting in Vilnius, where Turkey was given two years to fulfill its commitments on the protection of historic sites in the city. After reconsidering the situation in İstanbul with regard to its historic sites in annual meetings in Quebec and Seville in the following two years, additional time was given, until the 2010 meeting in Brazil. In addition to the bridge project, UNESCO also requested completion of the area management plan concerning heritage sites in İstanbul.