RIGA - The UNESCO world cultural heritage committee expressed regret on July 5 at Latvia's failure to comply with its 2003 decision to reduce the number of stories in the Saules Akmens highrise office building being constructed in the Kipsala area of Riga, said UNESCO Latvian National Commission Secretary -General Dace Neiburga.
Last year UNESCO ruled that the building, designed to have 26 stories, was too high for Riga's landscape. The construction contractor Merks, however, refused to comply, arguing that the construction had already gone too far to make corrections, as it would distort the structure's overall look.
At the UNESCO session in China, Latvia took further criticism for its decision on the Saules Akmens highrise project from several other UNESCO member states.
Although initially planning a tougher action against Latvia for its decision, the UNESCO committee considered the amendments proposed by the Latvian delegation and passed the document.
Regarding the Saules Akmens building, built in the Kipsala area on the southwestern bank of the Daugava River, UNESCO asked Riga to guarantee that "historic water reservoirs will be preserved as a public open space without new buildings."
Riga Mayor Gundars Bojars said he did not think that the UNESCO decision would obstruct development of the Kipsala area where, in addition to Saules Akmens, the city plans to construct other highrise buildings.
Bojars was also quoted as saying that "the UNESCO committee decision was arranged by the Latvian institutions, and Latvian authorities responsible for initially creating now claim they have saved the situation."
In other areas, UNESCO commended Latvia for its efforts to introduce a law preventing ads that protects the historic part of Riga and put pressure on the speedy completion and implementation of Riga's Old Town development plan.
Insisting that Latvia should be more careful when assessing new projects for Riga's Old Town, UNESCO proposed that the country make a report on the subject by February of next year.