Baku, capital of the Azerbaijan Republic, is a large industrial, scientific, and cultural center. In the 12th to 15th centuries, with the development of Sufism, Baku became the cultural capital of the country. After an earthquake the capital of Shirvan Shahs was moved from Shemakha to Baku. It was then that the Shirvan Shahs Palace, the masterpiece of Azerbaijan architecture, numerous mosques, madrasas, caravanserais, hammams and many other monuments were built. In the second half of the 19th century when Baku began capitalist development, the territory of Icheri Sheher became a place of intensive construction of apartment houses. Ancient buildings were destroyed and new houses with all modern utilities were built.
The objective of the team during development of the project for the Icheri Sheher rehabilitation was to organise the medium for a vivid, integral model of a medieval town in the context of a large modern city. In order to reach the objective, the Committee for Protection and Restoration of the Monuments of History and Culture has designated the objects which require restoration or reconstruction, and the extent of restoration works. The committee has also determined the preservation of old functions or new functional roles of the historical monuments and buildings in the context of the whole complex. Analysis of the existing apartment houses has been made in order to determine the necessity of restoring or upgrading of buildings which present interest from historical or architectural points of view and to determine where new houses can be built in cases where an old house does not have any aesthetic function. In the latter case, limitations regarding the configuration of plan, the number of stores, and the building exterior are outlined.
The design concept for the Icheri Sheher rehabilitation, unlike many similar projects, is focused on the preservation of the unique atmosphere of the medieval town. The removal of buildings fallen into disrepair over the centuries did not usually disturb the established planning. The new buildings and houses that have been built in place of the removed ones, often incorporate fragments of the old buildings. Currently, the restoration of the old blocks of private houses and of the unique labyrinth of the Icheri Sheher streets is under way. No wind blows through the twisting streets, their width no more than 2.5 metres. The town-building solution provides for optimum aerodynamics which provides warmth in winter and coolness in summer.
The Icheri Sheher rehabilitation project proposes the incorporation of a variety of architectural monuments into the spatial structure of the Old Town as opposed to the Bukhara project where "large open areas are created within the old town that allow for good viewing of the architectural delights." This works toward the restoration of the original atmosphere to revive the spirit and aroma of the Middle Ages.
Source: Aga Khan Trust for Culture