© Franziska Laue

Reconstruction Directory

Reconstruction Directory

Extensively damaged historic city centres call for significant investment and a long-term commitment. A practical way of addressing these challenges is to produce a reconstruction directory. It can serve as a provisional action plan until a more comprehensive rebuilding programme is formulated.

A reconstruction directory outlines the approach to be adopted in specific locations, and identifies coherent zones in which particular architectural features or qualities exist. It can provide a pragmatic framework within which a multitude of activities can be guided and coordinated. It is a flexible tool that responds to needs and initiatives as they arise. It can also define priorities and phases for rolling out a comprehensive reconstruction programme over time.

A reconstruction directory depends on the consistent interpretation of damage assessments. It should be developed incrementally and in iterative cycles, and give consideration to residents’ urgent needs and the existing funding opportunities.

Once it reaches maturity, the directory can be used to coordinate the vision for reconstruction and the implementation of reconstruction priorities.

Why is it needed?

The accumulation of problems and urgencies in a post-conflict situation calls for a coordinated response. Incoherent action entails the risk of compromising the future of the city by allowing undesirable and irreversible trends to take root.

  • Local government often suffers severe institutional damage or even annihilation during a period of armed conflict. At best, it is likely to be either temporarily suspended or overstretched. Ad hoc frameworks are therefore needed in order to give direction and coordinate and control activities in the interests of the city and its cultural heritage.
  • War-torn historic cities are usually in need of special legal instruments to enable them to cope with emergency situations. Such instruments can complement existing regulations and prevent premature or abusive redevelopment and real estate speculation.
  • The repair of historic buildings needs to be organised so as to prevent further loss and damage and to ensure that the long-term conservation goals can be achieved.
  • Temporary housing and infrastructure provision has to be organised pragmatically, but also coordinated with a long-term urban rehabilitation programme that is in harmony with the specific morphology of an old city.
  • With the active participation of residents, disrupted social networks have to be mended by way of reconciliation and peaceful rehabilitation.
  • Public funds are scarce, and the resources available from international organisations, donors and investors sometimes focus on other priorities. Proper direction is therefore essential in order to make the best possible of financial resources, particularly in the crucial initial phase when donor funding is most likely to be available.

Users and target audience

In principle, there are two main groups of users and beneficiaries of a reconstruction directory:

  • active, professional users, including public (municipal) administrators, architects, planners working on behalf of the government or international organisations or donors, and the enterprises and craftsmen involved in rehabilitation works, and
  • passive beneficiaries, such as community representatives, residents, local associations, artisans and shopkeepers.

The way in which the reconstruction directory is used in practice depends on how these two groups cooperate and on the existence of a consensus among the various actors within each group. In particular, the following issues need to be addressed and resolved according to circumstances:

  • Which members of the active group will engage in producing planning instruments and take the lead in the implementation process?
  • How can the vision, goals and measures arising from the reconstruction directory be discussed, agreed and periodically revised through joint decision-making by administrators, donors, professionals, residents, and other stakeholders?
  • Who will be responsible for implementing and following up agreed projects, plans and activities?

Whatever the answers to these questions, there is a need for a coordinating task force and a common platform for the relevant administrative authorities, professionals and donors. Depending on local circumstances, such a task force could be created under the auspices of the municipality, a dedicated old city office, a locally rooted International organisation, or a major donor.

Approaches and instruments

The primary purpose of a reconstruction directory is to provide a structured system of phased emergency measures that can re-establish the basic viability of a ruined historic city in a way that avoids jeopardising the consistency of future rehabilitation efforts.

It will then progressively develop a pragmatic system of prototypical reconstruction approaches that apply to specific architectural/historic values, physical conditions, contextual circumstances and functional needs. It will guide and coordinate private and public initiatives and donor projects as they emerge, both plot-by-plot and area-wide.

While its evolution must be adapted to reflect the prevailing local conditions, a reconstruction directory will generally include the following tools and activities:

  • List of priority survival measures to be implemented immediately, such as removal of rubble, central collection and storage of re-usable building materials, interim infrastructure and street network repairs, temporary housing provision, opening of transitional social facilities, creation of a central information point for assisting residents.
  • List of surviving key monuments and of urgent stabilisation measures that will not compromise future conservation.
  • Definition of surviving homogeneous zones of the former historic fabric, with emphasis on coherent residential areas, market complexes and public open-space systems.
  • Identification of reconstruction potential in previously transformed sections of the historic city (modern enclaves).
  • Record of irretrievably lost plots and urban areas eligible for adaptive redevelopment.
  • Matrix of different types of intervention (conservation, repair, infill, substitution, redevelopment) applicable to individual plots, groups of buildings or larger areas, based on an assessment of physical conditions and architectural value.
  • Guidelines and manuals responding to different types of conservation, repair, infill and area redevelopment needs.
  • Survey of owners/residents who are willing to undertake housing repair and restoration measures.
  • Assistance for owners by way of advice, subsidised materials and, if possible, small loans and grants.
  • Identification of opportunities for integrated reconstruction projects.
  • Mobilising donor interest and resources for individual and larger-scale reconstruction projects.
  • Where applicable, new legal instruments to prevent intervention in critical plots and areas, in order to win time for preparing sensitive conservation or redevelopment projects and to allow the proper phasing of reconstruction efforts.

Strategic Base Survey of Existing Conditions

© Jwanah Qudsi

In addition to assessing the damage done to the urban fabric, historic housing zones, individual monuments, and infrastructure facilities, further analysis is required to evaluate disrupted social structures, urban functions and cultural activities.

Such surveys should be initiated as soon as possible (even before the end of hostilities), continuously updated, and refined through progressive cycles so as to provide more and more detail. The research should include the following subjects:

  • Morphological analysis of earlier conditions, reflecting the pre-war status of historic and modern districts.
  • Identification of remaining, typologically homogeneous zones (historic and modern).
  • General and detailed damage assessments within the homogeneous zones.
  • Inventory of surviving public and religious buildings and major monuments, and assessment of their functional and physical condition.
  • Listing of priority buildings to be stabilised and restored at a later stage.
  • Survey of infrastructure and public space conditions.
  • Evaluation of emergency demand for temporary housing, intermediate public facilities and basic infrastructure repair.

Identification of Homogeneous Zones

© Murtaja Lateef/picture alliance/ZUMAPRESS.com

Zoning – in this case the definition of morphologically homogeneous urban areas – is a basic tool that can be used to preserve and revive as much as possible of a historic city’s heritage. It can also ensure that devastated areas are redeveloped in a way that is compatible with the traditional urban fabric. Zoning helps to break down the overall planning process into consistent segments that are easier to manage.

A list of homogeneous zones reflects consistent urban forms, but in order to present a more complete picture, a matrix is needed as well in case different types of intervention are called for within an otherwise homogeneous area (e.g. local new infill within a dominant conservation area). In principle, a distinction is made between the following types of homogeneous areas:

Zone of major monuments and historic sites: Arguably, these are the areas least affected by the threat of rapid urban change because of their recognised special status –they belong to the government and are subject to the jurisdiction of the antiquities authorities. These zones are governed by undisputed conservation or reconstruction principles and are the most likely to attract international funding through UNESCO and international donors. Urgent measures to be taken by the antiquities authorities include site protection, the collection of dispersed building fragments, documentation of earlier conditions, stabilisation and archaeological research.

Zone of historic souks and public street network: Souks have a combined historic and commercial character and must be made functional again as soon as possible, in order both to kick-start the local economy and to re-establish the image of the old city by restoring its central public spaces.

Close interaction between the local government, antiquities authorities and private merchants is necessary in order to balance different needs, such as archaeological research, proper conservation/restoration modes, and profitable commercial use. In certain cases, typologically adapted redevelopment may be desirable or necessary so that contemporary functional needs can be accommodated. Co-funding for the rehabilitation of historic souks can be sought from international donors.

In order to preserve the distinctive qualities of residential streets and alleyways, their treatment has to be given careful consideration against the backdrop of the historic urban fabric’s morphology. The dominant pedestrian character needs to be protected, as does the proper articulation of transitions between public and private space. Vehicular access points and service lanes need to be re-established (or newly planned) in a way that preserves the integrity of the residential urban fabric.

Zone of traditional residential fabric: Conserving and rehabilitating what is left of the historic residential quarters is a crucial factor in preserving the identity of war-stricken historic cities. It also ranks among the most difficult tasks because it requires technical control over a multitude of micro-scale interventions involving hundreds of private house owners and tenants. Urgent emergency repairs have to be done in a manner that does not adversely affect long-term conservation goals relating to traditional architectural typologies and building materials.

In many cases, ruined houses will have to be substantially restored or rebuilt, and on some devastated plots new infill will have to be designed in keeping with traditional structures, such as dominant courtyard typologies. Thorough control, guidance and assistance will be required in this continuous rehabilitation process. Pro-active assistance can be given by way of guidelines and manuals.

Temporary emergency solutions often have to be accepted for an initial period before being replaced later by more appropriate structures. For the most frequently occurring repair tasks, house owners have to be given instructions and possibly access to a ‘materials bank’. It is hoped that incentives, such as small loans and grants, for appropriate reconstruction can be provided by donors interested in urban rehabilitation.

Zone of modern enclaves within an old city: The repair and reconstruction of damaged modern apartment and office blocks, which are situated on traffic routes that impinge on historic cities, has to be closely monitored in order to avoid the unauthorised addition of upper floors or other abusive construction activities.

At the same time, other models of rebuilding destroyed modern blocks should be explored, particularly in the vicinity of surviving parts of the historic fabric. For this purpose, evolutionary intermediate typologies should be developed that combine low-height, linear street-front buildings with integrated pedestrian arcades. Buildings following this pattern can be positioned back-to-back against khan-like courtyard structures to fill voids and merge with the adjacent traditional urban texture.

Zone of comprehensive redevelopment, consisting of destroyed areas of the former urban fabric: Many war-stricken historic cities feature smaller and larger expanses of contiguous, irretrievably ruined plots (both within the traditional urban fabric and in the ‘modern enclaves’) that form open scars within the old city. Reconstructing their precise former condition may not be feasible or desirable, but these areas provide an opportunity to cater for hitherto unforeseen evolutionary needs of the old city. New functions and buildings can be introduced here in a contemporary manner, yet in harmony with the traditional architectural language of the adjacent historic fabric.

It is important that this unique window for adaptive urban renewal is not closed by abandoning plots of land or development rights to speculative investors who care only about their own economic benefit and not about the architectural and social context.

Local authorities should therefore seek to prohibit intervention in such areas until appropriate redevelopment options have been agreed. Once a programme is adopted, some areas could be redeveloped on the basis of an architectural competition.

Appropriate legal mechanisms will have to exist if public-private investment partnerships (possibly supported by international donors) and the interests of current land owners are to be accommodated as well.

Matrix of Plot-by-Plot Interventions

© Stefano Bianca

This matrix is a major tool of the reconstruction directory and is to be applied on a plot-by-plot basis. It complements the homogeneous urban zones that are used to define area-wide priority modes of intervention.

The matrix provides planners with a flexible decision-making instrument for determining the appropriate type of intervention for each component of the urban fabric, based on given qualities and existing conditions. Specific conclusions concerning suitable modes of reconstruction are reached by interconnecting (matching) two scaled parameters, namely the degree of historic and architectural importance and the extent of physical deterioration.

To facilitate the decision-making process a range of prototypical criteria can be established for both parameters:

Degree of historic and architectural importance

  • Extremely high (e.g. major monuments)
  • High (e.g. minor monuments, important houses)
  • Medium (e.g. ordinary historic houses)
  • Contextual (e.g. transformed historic houses, those of no specific interest)
  • Not historic (e.g. recent buildings of moderate height)
  • Disturbing (e.g. modern structures detrimental to the historic urban fabric)

Extent of deterioration

  • No relevant damage
  • Minor damage
  • Moderate damage
  • Severe damage
  • Irreversible damage

The appropriate type and mode of intervention for each building is determined by correlating these two sets of criteria. Ideally, the relevant criteria for both parameters are recorded, marked and overlapped on a cadastral map.

In emergency situations, however, planners can proceed case by case, as dictated by urgent needs. In certain instances it may also be useful to consider the past and future functional use of buildings in order to evaluate the potential for their adaptive re-use together with the suitable reconstruction mode.

The specific types of recommended intervention depend on the place in the matrix where the criteria meet, as illustrated by the following examples:

Extremely high historic/architectural importance

  • Minor damage: Full conservation recommended
  • Severe damage: Partial reconstruction recommended
  • Irreversible damage: Full reconstruction possible if documentation available

Contextual architectural importance

  • Moderate damage: Repair according to typological guidelines
  • Irreversible damage: Typologically compatible replacement (infill)

Disturbing modern structures

  • Moderate damage: Repair so as to minimise disturbing features
  • Severe damage: Demolish and replace in a morphologically compatible manner
  • Irreversible damage: Redevelop with introduction of new functions, particularly in the case of relatively large destroyed areasMore information on the different types of intervention is provided below, and further guidelines are provided in other parts of the toolkit.

These are just a few theoretical examples of how the type of intervention can be determined by referencing the inherent architectural values and existing physical conditions. In practice, the method may have to be adapted according to the circumstances of each specific city and project.

Legal Back-up

© Jwanah Qudsi

In an emergency situation it is impossible immediately to produce and implement appropriate planning concepts.

In order to allow the planning strategy to unfold step by step, legal instruments are needed to enable the relevant authorities to keep important areas and plots on hold until an informed reconstruction decision is taken or an action plan is adopted. This will help to protect culturally sensitive archaeological and conservation zones and to preserve future development opportunities areas that have been totally destroyed. Imposing a temporary ‘freeze’ on key areas can provide the basis for a consistent emergency planning process.

Special legal provisions may also be needed to resolve blocked real estate situations (arising from the absence of land owners or a multiple division of property rights) that are hampering integrated reconstruction projects in critical locations. Establishing legal back-up for the reconstruction directory should therefore encompass the following activities:

  • Confirm the general validity of the World Heritage Convention and similar charters.
  • Protect archaeologically important zones.
  • Define emergency decrees and implementation modes to enable the government to impose temporary development bans for critical plots and zones, and thus prevent harmful or premature reconstruction.
  • Invoke existing rules and regulations to enforce land-use policies that are compatible with the historic fabric, while giving consideration to the emergency situation.
  • Issue guidelines to facilitate adaptive repair and restoration activities on individual plots.
  • Support implementation of action area plans involving multiple stakeholders.
  • Provide legal mechanisms to enable owners of devastated plots to participate in joint shareholder companies, so that overarching redevelopment projects and action areas can be initiated.
  • Formulate expropriation and compensation regulations to resolve cases involving multiple, unreachable, or deceased land owners.

Mostar: Planning for reconstruction and restoration

© Cezary Wojtkowski/Picture alliance

From 1998  to 2004,  a five-year-long restoration and rehabilitation project for the historic city of Mostar was carried out in parallel with the restoration of Mostar’s most famous landmark, the Old Bridge (Stari Most).

From the very beginning, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) and the World Monuments Fund (WMF) realised that the reconstruction of the bridge without an in-depth rehabilitation of the historic neighbourhoods flanking it on the picturesque Neretva riverbanks – its matrix as it were – would be devoid of context and meaning.

The project concept therefore comprised a combination of urban conservation schemes and individual restoration projects  aiming at regenerating the most significant areas of historic Mostar, and particularly the urban fabric around the Old Bridge. AKTC’s and WMF’s work through the years 1998-2004 reflects the pursuit of a threefold strategy:

  • Establishment of a detailed conservation and development plan for the old city (within its 1918 boundaries) in order to provide the city administration with an up-to-date record of the existing situation, as well as an appropriate urban management tool for plot-by-plot interventions ranging from restoration to appropriate new “infill” structures.
  • Development of a series of action plans for significant specific areas that are characterised by ensembles of historic buildings and their enclosed or adjacent public spaces, particularly the two historic neighbourhoods flanking the Old Bridge complex on both sides of the Neretva River. In these areas Mostar’s old townscape has been as much as possible re-established. In cooperation with the residents, owners and the authorities, interventions ranged from roof repairs to the reconstruction of ruined buildings, environmental improvements, street furnishings etc.
  • Identification of a list of 21 important historic buildings to be restored as a priority for the city’s recovery, with funds made available through public or private investment. Each building was carefully recorded and analysed, and corresponding conservation (or reconstruction) proposals were prepared, including cost estimates and recommendations for re-use.

Through these inter-connected planning and restoration initiatives, AKTC and WMF have made a major contribution to the revival of the Old City of Mostar, not only in the physical sense but also with regard to the social dimension and the institutional setting.

The implementation of the different projects  would not have been possible without the support and active participation of the city administration and its technical services, the religious community, as well as the owners and residents concerned. Another important aspect was the training of young Bosnian architects who have participated in the project and formed the core of the AKTC/WMF Mostar office. This “rooting” of the project in local ground has also resulted in the establishment of the Stari grad Agency which, on behalf of the city, had an important role in overseeing the implementation of the conservation plan, as well as operating and maintaining a series of restored historic buildings (including the Old Bridge complex) and promoting Mostar as a cultural and tourist destination.

As old Mostar regained its physical identity, it became again a focal point for visitors from all over the world and – even more importantly – assumes again its function as a truly multi-cultural urban centre, providing an example of a place where people of different cultures, religions and ethnic affiliations live and work side by side. May the joint restoration efforts of the city administration and the international community lead Mostar into a bright and peaceful future.

Summary  based on the introduction to the report: Historic Cities Support Programme, Aga Khan Trust for Culture / World Monuments Fund, CONSERVATION AND REVITALIZATION OF HISTORIC MOSTAR, by: Bonnie Burham, President, World Monuments Fund; Stefano Bianca, Director, Historic Cities Support Programme of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, 2004

Further Reference and Resources

Date: 27. September 2018 | Last modified: 11. June 2019

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