Historic Center of Vienna Remains on the UNESCO Red List

PeopleOther ♦ Published: September 13, 2023; 13:31 ♦ (Vindobona)

The historic center of Vienna remains on UNESCO's red list of endangered World Heritage Sites despite recent changes to the Heumarkt project. This was decided by UNESCO. Now it is being examined whether the project is compatible with World Heritage in this way.

The historic center of Vienna remains on the red list of endangered world heritage sites. / Picture: © Wikimedia Commons; Ogre, CC BY 3.0

This decision was announced during the 45th meeting of the committee in Riyadh. The center's inclusion on the list in 2017 is mainly due to a planned construction project on the Haymarket, which has been the subject of controversy for years. Since then, the project has been amended again and again. As recently as the end of June, plans had been published that included a 56.5-meter-high "residential slice," a new building for the Intercontinental Hotel with a height of 47.85 meters, as well as a freely accessible city terrace, a conference center, and a central open space

However, UNESCO has praised recent changes to the Haymarket project. An amendment was introduced and approved at the initiative of Saudi Arabia, with the project now envisioning a structure that is just under 50 meters. The new Hotel Intercontinental building is expected to reach a height of around 48 meters. This current design of the project is now undergoing a technical and scientific review.

Important reactions to the decision are mainly positive, as reported by ORF. Sabine Haag, the president of the Austrian UNESCO Commission, emphasized the recognition of efforts to preserve Vienna's World Heritage status. Likewise, Andrea Mayer, the Secretary of State for the Arts and Culture of the Green Party, expressed satisfaction with the positive development and praised the joint efforts of the agencies involved in Austria.

Ernst Woller, First President of the Vienna Parliament and UNESCO representative, as reported by ORF, informed Riyadh that the latest project changes in terms of height and volume are seen as positive in terms of compatibility with World Heritage.

NEOS Vienna welcomed the decision, as reported by ORF, stressing that their opposition to protecting the World Heritage Site had been correct so far. The ÖVP sees this as a "last chance for Vienna" and calls on the city government to make every effort to preserve the World Heritage Site. The FPÖ stands by its demand that the UNESCO World Heritage Site should not be impaired in any way.

The outcome of the technical review is crucial for the future assessment of the project. Should the project be considered compatible with the World Heritage after this new reduction, removal from the red list could be considered in the 46th session of the World Heritage Committee in the summer of 2024.