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Old May 31st, 2005, 12:17 PM   #1
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UN may limit tall buildings

From Building Design magazine

UNESCO proposes tough new rules that could
ban tall towers near world heritage sites


By Charlie Gates

The United Nations is this week arming itself for a confrontation with modern architecture as it moves to protect the world's most important historic sites from "iconic" skyscrapers.

The head of Unesco world heritage centres, Francesco Bandarin, has proposed tough rules that could see tall buildings in historic cities such as London and Liverpool refused permission because of their impact on heritage sites. Foster & Partners' Swiss Re tower would have been blocked under the rules.

Bandarin told BD: "There must be a limit to designing whatever you want when you are in a city with a long history.

A lot of these iconic buildings are designed with no sense of context. They are just pure design. Architecture should be a human activity. It is not for magazines, it is for people.

"We are looking at what is happening in the 200 cities around the world with World Heritage Sites and we are very worried. In confronting modern architecture we find we do not have the tools to stop them."

Bandarin cited Foster's Swiss Re headquarters as an example of a modern building that had an impact on the nearby Tower of London, but had not broken any rules concerning building near a listed site. In a move that will reignite last year's debate about iconic buildings versus "place-making", the UN is empowering itself to prevent such developments, using a series of proposed regulations that are being discussed at a special conference in Vienna this week.

They propose that cities with world heritage sites should have to enshrine a conservation plan in supplementary planning guidance. This would give the regulations more teeth as they would automatically become a statutory consideration for any planning decision near the site.

Bandarin is also proposing the first new UN guidelines on the management of sites in nearly 30 years to tackle the phenomenon of iconic architecture. These would include measures such as protected views, similar to the viewing corridors that protect St Paul's Cathedral in London, and could prevent towers such as the Shard or Allford Hall Monaghan Morris's Unity building in Liverpool being granted planning permission in the future, if they affect a world heritage site.

After the Vienna conference, the proposals will go for approval to the Unesco world heritage committee in July and will then be considered by UN member states for adoption. They were prompted by the Wien-Mitte project in Vienna, which comprises three high-rise towers, designed by Ortner & Ortner, in the buffer zone surrounding the world heritage site, just 800m from St Stephen's Cathedral.

The proposed regime has already caused ructions in Westminster, where the council has been preparing a management strategy for Westminster Abbey in anticipation. London mayor Ken Livingstone has opposed the draft strategy because it conflicts with his tall buildings policy.

Leading architects and planners lined up against Unesco. CZWG's Piers Gough warned: "[Bandarin] is trying to rewrite history. The lift was invented 150 years ago, so we are capable of making high buildings. The point of progress is not to suck up to the sensibilities of the boss of Unesco. Many of us see a sublime relationship between modern and existing buildings. Over-legislation could see cities reduced to blandness."

Peter Rees, city planning officer for the Corporation of London, also criticised the plans. "I think each country should protect its own heritage. It is not for someone from some anally retentive European country to come along and tell people they can't touch [a heritage site]," Rees said.



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Old May 31st, 2005, 12:21 PM   #2
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While i generally think the concept is OK, i disagree with the move. A city is a dynamic, evolving environment, that people shape and develop as they move forward. Todays development is just the next chapter in cities history, and are as important as times past in many circumstances. If handled correctly, it only enhances the city and adds a new, unique character in conjunction with heritage sites.
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Old May 31st, 2005, 12:30 PM   #3
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If the skyscrapers don't destroy the monuments, I don't think it's a good idea Cities and of course monuments are not things that change in the history. Skyscrapers and modern buildings can life together with monuments and give new perspectives to the cities, and became more interesting.
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Old May 31st, 2005, 12:52 PM   #4
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plus, you can't believe how popular the Gherkin is in its current position. Cities should blend new with the old, and Swiss Re's proximity to Tower Bridge and the Tower of London is a great example of how it should be done.
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Old May 31st, 2005, 01:06 PM   #5
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Yeah, rules and maybe even limitations are ok...but it would be good to blend in both old and new. Swiss Re is a very fine example indeed how it should be done IMHO!
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Old May 31st, 2005, 01:30 PM   #6
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The UN has no business in how we develop our cities - unless they contribute significant money towards maintaining them, which I don't think they do.
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Old May 31st, 2005, 01:31 PM   #7
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I can't believe they cited Swiss RE as an example. That building has revolutionized London's skyline and atmosphere for the better.
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Old May 31st, 2005, 01:36 PM   #8
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Meh. Is the UN even trying to get the Anglosphere back on its side or has it totally given up?
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Old May 31st, 2005, 01:37 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JPSLtd
I can't believe they cited Swiss RE as an example. That building has revolutionized London's skyline and atmosphere for the better.
Yep. This plan from the UN is absurd. Here in London, we already have incredibly strict rules/regulations for tall buildings near world heritage sites. This UN plan would take things to the extreme, and ban them on principle.
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Old May 31st, 2005, 03:42 PM   #10
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Good subject.
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Old May 31st, 2005, 10:23 PM   #11
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Since the UN cant really do anything I guess this is their way of trying to show they still have power.
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Old May 31st, 2005, 11:06 PM   #12
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What good is the UN anymore? Honestly.

What a stupid rule, if this happened tons of cities would not be able to build skyscrapers, and when new cities get older, than they won't be allowed to build them either I assume?

This is absurd.
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Old June 1st, 2005, 04:33 AM   #13
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How was this even on the UN agenda? Shouldn't this be up to the city planners to decide if they want a building or not.
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Old June 1st, 2005, 04:45 AM   #14
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This has no business being on any agenda other than that of individual citys' . In principle it's not a bad idea but in practice it's overkill. Cities today have no interest in tearing down landmarks for a multitude of reasons. If London wants to put up a building as impressive as Swiss Re then it shouldn't have to go through some international channel to do it. Hell, just look at the building; in a hundred years Swiss Re will be considered a world landmark (if it isn't already) that nobody will allow to be torn down. Besides, cities don't have the luxury of building and planning based on nostalgia.
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Old June 1st, 2005, 04:54 AM   #15
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While I am generally supportive of most that the U.N. does, this is the type of thing that opponents of the U.N. will use to make their case. As was said earlier, cities are evolving beasts. I believe the Eiffel Tower had much opposition before its construction because many thought it would destroy the history of Paris; look what's happened, the Tower has become a part of Parisian history itself!
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Old June 1st, 2005, 05:14 AM   #16
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"They were prompted by the Wien-Mitte project in Vienna, which comprises three high-rise towers, designed by Ortner & Ortner, in the buffer zone surrounding the world heritage site, just 800m from St Stephen's Cathedral."

Wow, 800 meters...that's close.
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Old June 1st, 2005, 05:38 AM   #17
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The UN and all its various bodies have absolutely no power to control what is built where and when.

They are just a bunch of overpaid academics writing whitepapers. The only affect they can have is to influence thought amongst citizens and to lobby those with the real power.
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Old June 1st, 2005, 10:20 AM   #18
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So then we can only see that in our future, all the city centers will be very old and ruin-like while the skyscrapers go up around the city center in the suburbs.
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Old June 1st, 2005, 11:24 AM   #19
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Too bad for u guys, Londoners.
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Old June 1st, 2005, 11:35 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Talbot
What good is the UN anymore? Honestly.

What a stupid rule, if this happened tons of cities would not be able to build skyscrapers, and when new cities get older, than they won't be allowed to build them either I assume?

This is absurd.
I tend to agree.

It is absurd esp when their skyscraper headquarters graces the hudson river -I bet they don't want to move to a business park groundscraper in some far flug suburb or NYC.

the UN has less and less relevance today and this shows they are clutching at straws in attempting to assert a power that is not there.
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