© Stefano Bianca

Reconstruction Guidelines

Reconstruction Guidelines

Guidelines provide orientation for various types of reconstruction activity spanning an entire historic city, neighbourhoods or individual quarters. As regards content, they can cover the design and (re)construction of buildings, and the execution of temporary and intermediate measures.

Developing such guidelines requires a good knowledge and understanding of the specific morphology and typology of a historic city. Consideration has to be given to the potentially wide range of necessary reconstruction and intervention measures, from complete restoration and conservation to comprehensive replacement or redevelopment.

The guidelines will also need to be implemented in a pragmatic and flexible manner that allows adjustments to be made according to practical needs.


By formulating objectives and providing guidance on intervention measures, reconstruction guidelines complement the reconstruction directory and play a part in translating the agreed vision for reconstruction into practice.

The guidelines outline a framework for culturally sensitive reconstruction and seek to prevent any further destruction of the urban cultural heritage.

Users and Target Audience

Reconstruction guidelines should generally be issued by the competent authorities. In most cases, these are the planning or construction departments of the municipalities.

To ensure acceptance and facilitate implementation, all relevant stakeholders and the general public should be involved in formulating and drawing up the guidelines.

As a binding framework, the guidelines should be applied by all actors involved in the repair, reconstruction or renovation of historic buildings, or in the construction of new buildings in an old city.

In particular, users and target audience encompasses:

  • Authorities or bodies responsible for planning and approving reconstruction projects
  • Private owners and real estate developers
  • Architects and urban planners

Approaches and instruments

Guidelines for salvaging historic building materials

© Kyodo/Picture alliance/MAXPPP

In the process of clearing debris and safeguarding partially destroyed buildings, it is essential to retrieve and store important and valuable historical building materials from important monuments and private historic buildings in a systematic manner so that they can be used for restoration or reconstruction.

The competent antiquities authorities may be able to oversee this task for important monuments, but salvaging materials from large numbers of smaller historic buildings and houses of lesser importance presents a major challenge. In this context, guidelines, advice and assistance will be needed for the owners, residents, builders and workers engaged in clearing rubble and debris.

The highest priority should be given to debris from damaged or partially destroyed historic buildings that are beyond repair or restoration.

Wherever possible, building materials and elements should be assigned to the buildings from which they originate. This should be done at least provisionally as soon as possible, ideally while the debris is being cleared. An assignment to exact locations, based on closer examination, can be performed later. Even in cases in which materials cannot be assigned to a specific building, the place from which they are recovered should be recorded.

If building surveys or photographs showing the condition of a building before its destruction are available, reference should be made to these when recording the salvaged materials.

For recording purposes, the following categories are useful:

  • Building from which the materials originate
  • Condition and type of building
  • Age of building
  • Owner of the building
  • Place recovered
  • Type of material
  • Assignment to a building type
  • Condition
  • Size and weight

The materials should be recorded in a central digital database and stored in a systematic way, depending on various factors, including the following:

  • If the materials can be clearly assigned to a specific building, they are best stored on the original plot, especially in the case of partially destroyed buildings that can be reconstructed.
  • If the materials cannot be stored safely on site, they should be taken to a local central facility (in order to avoid long-distance transportation).
  • Particularly valuable and sensitive materials or building elements should be stored in a secure central warehouse that is accessible to builders and architects. The warehouse can also serve as the central information point for all recorded materials and building elements, including those that are stored locally, close to their discovery sites.

Guidelines for the entire historic city centre

© Stefano Bianca/AKTC

With a view to restoring the urban cultural heritage and “Historic Urban Landscape”, in particular for World Heritage sites, guidelines should be formulated as follows for the entire old city:

  • The historic old city is the most important cultural, commercial and tourist asset. It gives all the city’s residents a sense of ownership, belonging and cultural identity.
  • The urban layout and property structure, as illustrated by pre-conflict cadastral documents, should serve as the reference point for reconstruction.
  • The public squares, roads and paths, and the technical and social infrastructure, are to be made usable again.
  • The housing, land and property rights of all residents must be respected: restitution takes precedence over compensation.
  • Urban planning rules must be formulated to avoid any impairment or overhauling of the historical structure. In particular, the provisions governing the type and extent of structural utilisation (land-use intensity) must give sensitive consideration to the special structures, scale and morphology of the historic old city’s fabric.
  • Exceptions to the guidelines are to be permitted only for special construction projects. In such cases, a special procedure for the development, evaluation and approval of new building projects should be applied (e.g. within the framework of a competition or proper ex-post procedure involving international experts).

Guidelines for intervention at neighbourhood level

© Stefano Bianca/AKTC

Guidelines for neighbourhoods must give consideration to the specific characteristics of the traditional urban fabric and at the same time seek to foster peace and reconciliation. Development regulations should pursue the goal of preserving not only the neighbourhood’s special character, but also its building typologies and functions:

  • Reconstructed buildings and new buildings on vacated plots must fit into the structural context defined by the type and size of adjacent buildings, and must not impair any future adjacent (re)construction.
  • The height of buildings must reflect the traditional forms of Islamic architecture and not disturb the privacy of neighbouring buildings.
  • Reconstructed buildings must follow the original building lines.
  • The adopted rules should also apply to buildings which, before they were destroyed, did not comply with their provisions.
  • Special monuments should be exempted from the adopted directives. Their restoration or reconstruction is to be based on reliable documentary evidence.
  • Areas and ensembles of special archaeological or historical value should be designated as archaeological protection zones and safeguarded by fencing in order to allow a thorough survey of the existing structures to be performed in due course.

Design and construction guidelines

© Christoph Wessling

Further guidelines complying with the overall objectives of protecting and recovering the sensitive urban fabric are needed for individual (re)construction measures and projects. These typically include the following provisions:

  • The protection of damaged or partially destroyed buildings takes priority.
  • Renovation and repair takes precedence over demolition and new construction.
  • Damaged or partially destroyed historic buildings must be renovated or rebuilt, and materials typical for the type of building are to be used.
  • New buildings must reflect the volume, structure and design of the adjacent buildings or other buildings that are typical of the quarter. Contemporary architecture is allowed as long as these criteria are met.
  • The colours and materials of new buildings must harmonise with those of adjacent buildings or other buildings typical of the quarter.
  • Changes to the parcel structure, typically the merging of land plots, are permitted only if they avoid any adverse effect on scale in relation to adjacent buildings or other buildings that are characteristic of the quarter.

Guidelines for temporary measures

© Franziska Laue

When reconstruction or restoration cannot be undertaken immediately, temporary solutions must be implemented in a way that does not hamper or prevent subsequent permanent works. It is often difficult to satisfy or create all the conditions necessary to facilitate reconstruction and restoration activities at short notice, especially if:

  • the area is contaminated by mines or unexploded bombs or artillery shells,
  • ownership rights and claims cannot be properly verified (absent owners),
  • important information (plans, archives, records) on previous buildings and conditions is missing,
  • a consensus on objectives and priorities cannot be achieved or financial resources are unavailable, or
  • prior archaeological investigation is necessary.

In such cases it can be useful temporarily to ‘freeze’ all building and reconstruction activities, or to allow only provisional emergency measures, such as repairs to provide temporary shelter or safeguard building structures.

Such embargoes can be imposed by way of planning regulations, decrees, cultural heritage and/or archaeological protection zones, or through contractual agreements with owners concerning the temporary use of affected buildings or plots. Provisions typically adopted in such agreements include:

  • Temporary construction measures must not damage existing buildings, parts of buildings or their foundation walls.
  • Existing buildings, parts of buildings and foundation walls must be well protected during temporary construction measures.
  • If possible, temporary construction projects should refer to the previous uses and morphological characteristics, and not initiate structural breaks.
  • The extent and height of temporary structures should reflect the typologies and previous land-use intensity of the locality and neighbourhood.
  • In the case of temporary construction, only short-term permits and leases are to be granted in order to prevent the works being adopted as permanent measures.
  • Temporary building protection and security measures and repairs must be designed to avoid further damage to existing buildings, parts of buildings or foundation walls, and must be completely reversible without causing any damage.

Further Reference and Resources

Date: 27. September 2018 | Last modified: 24. May 2019

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