As a result of the dynamic urbanization processes in the central part of Baku city consistent design activities, and legislative initiatives related to territorial planning have been activated. For this reason, there is a need for scientific approaches and analyzes in the planning process, as well as in the formation of legislative, institutional and governance systems. The key factor making studies actual is the complicated and controversial urbanization processes occurring during the rapid economic development of the country. The transition from one socio-political form to another, change of ownership forms, privatization processes, market economy and the requirements of a free society made these researches important.
In the historical context of the planning structure of the central part of the city, there are a number of specific differences which should be taken into account. These are transition and interconnection of planning structures of different periods and different cultures in a city. One of these structures is Icheri Sheher with most characteristic features of Islamic cities and surrounded by castle walls dating from more than a thousand years. Historically, Baku was composed of this area until the middle of the nineteenth century. The main part of the center in terms of location was formed from the middle of the 19th century to the twentieth century with a regular, grid structure which was characteristic to the planning structures of capitalist era cities, as the Dutch architect, Rem Koolhaas said an area with a tradition of “manhattanism”.
Today, this area reflects the character and image of the central part of the city in terms of planning and architectural compositions. In a very short period of time, the formation on the basis of a single scheme has turned it into a unique planning pattern. A unique Baku environment was formed here by the interaction of planning structure reflecting the urbanist traditions of the western cities during capitalist era with spatial elements representing Oriental-Muslim traditions and national identity.
The third important element of the planning structure of the center is the urban planning element reflecting socialist towns which have been applied since the 20s of the last century and became the main component of the city. These are public places, which primarily focus on human factors and include social areas: parks, boulevards, statues, museums, theaters, educational institutions, communal facilities and so on. The main reason behind location of variety of objects in such a small area is just one of the characteristics of the socialist cities where social preferences and equality are preferred. It is known that in the early years of the Soviet Union, Baku was the polygon of planning experiments. Elements of transport-engineering infrastructure, road junctions, underground passages, bridges, and metro and railway stations formed during this period are also components that form the planning structure of the center. It should be noted that the “Khrushovka” and other residential buildings constructed in the 60-70th years of the XX century, plays an important role in the area. Even though such buildings are sometimes criticized as unsuccessful examples, they are transforming into a valuable factor, both in terms of scale and as a model of experience in the solution of historical and social problems, as well as the carrier of their own architectural traditions.
Finally, the planning elements that emerged after the independence gained significant influence on the formation of the center. These include parks and alleys reconstructed, a number of buildings built in the area, and architectural elements that reflect the attributes of an independent state. It should be noted that some of the unpleasant processes took place in this period. These processes are the construction of buildings, which are useless in terms of architectural validity, have a destructive effect on the existing planning structures, and can be detrimental to the area.
Similar processes in all transition countries contributes to making the right analysis. It should be noted the main reason of the above-mentioned unpleasant processes are social and political changes, as well as problems arising from the division of property and the fact that the institutional systems that regulate urbanization processes are not ready for new circumstances.
Today, urban planning processes taking place in the country are formed due to the requirements of Baku city as a capital of an independent country. These are the rapid formation and location of new elements characteristic to the capital city, reconstruction of Neftchilar, Istiglaliyyat, Fuzuli, Azerbaijan streets, national seaside park with modern approaches, successful introduction of new dominant elements in amphitheater, etc. Thus, the historical context of the centralized planning structure of the center of Baku enables us to formulate the theoretical basis to analyze the processes taking place and to propose solutions that reflect the ways of solving problems. Four historical stages should be taken in the formation of the central part of the structure:
– the period from antiquity to the middle of the nineteenth century;
– The period of Capitalism from the mid-19th to the 20th century;
– The period of socialism from the 20s to the late 80s;
– The period of independence from the 90s to the present day.
The main characteristic features of the study area are:
– Developed unique territory reflecting the unity of planning structures of different periods and cultures;
– Structure capable of maintaining its structural-functional, architectural-planning characteristics, despite the devastating effects of public, political processes and external aggression;
– Centers with capacities and capabilities for world-class urban centers;
– The historical part composes of Icheri Sheher complex which is included in the world heritage list and a number of other architectural-historical monuments;
– An amphitheater with a diverse range of natural and geographical conditions in a limited space, and the area opened to the sea bay.
Thus, the analysis of the planning structure of the central Baku city and the results obtained allow us to analyze the current situation and conduct analytical studies. First of all, grid structural planning structure formed the middle of the XIX century to the 20s of the 20th century should be considered as a historical monument and any structural changes in this area should only be permitted in exceptional circumstances
The main and recurring element of this planning structure is neighborhoods covered by four sides. All construction, reconstruction processes are taken place mostly within the neighborhoods. As a result, existing norms and rules, as well as historically formed architectural-planning environment is destructed.
The main reasons for the contradictions are the lack of traditional sequence in many of these neighborhoods as a result of the socio-political changes that took place in the 20s of the last century, and it has resulted in construction of single-storey building with poor conditions that did not meet any sanitary, normative, aesthetic, constructive requirements. It is difficult to implement any purposeful urbanization activities in these neighborhoods because of the diversity of interests. Implementation of multi-faceted and multi-layered investment policies is limited. As a result, some steps aimed to get high profit in the short time are taken. As noted, due to the lack of institutional systems conforming to the newly created conditions, a well-thought-out management policy becomes difficult. So, existing architectural-planning environment is destructed.
One of the factors affecting the overall planning structure, as well as architectural-planning solution of separate neighborhoods is the problem of transport and engineering infrastructure. The long-term characteristic of the problems, the emergence of new demand as a result of rapid development processes, and the impact of the emerging conditions on the planning structure are the reasons which make above-mentioned problems to be solved urgently. In this case, the most up-to-date technology and experience should be a key tool in reducing undesirable effects. Measures taken in line with the adopted state programs to improve the ecological environment in the central part, as well as the measures taken to increase public greenery, are inevitably incompatible with the planning structure and require considerable approaches.
Finally, the situation arising as a result of consistent measures to incorporate and develop state attributes into the planning structure should be taken into account. The impact of the changes in the social-functional structure in the central part (rapid development of services, etc.) is directly or indirectly influence the planning structure.
If at some stage these processes are explained by the lack of any planning and legislative documents on the area, nowadays the urban planning policy takes into account the institutional systems, management methods and principles, economic, social and ecological factors. Identifying the principal aspects of the planning structure in the existing project documents is important for the development of policies in the above-mentioned directions.
As mentioned above, changes in ownership forms should be balanced considering the realities of the housing, environmental assessment, infrastructure, employment policies that are to be accompanied by the division of the revenue, and at the same time, the mechanisms for the enforcement of the decisions should be developed. In the central part, the scale of the capital city should be gradually ensured. It is advisable to define the area in terms of its functional and planning status as a Central Business District (CBD). In this case, the future formation and development of the planning structure in the area, as well as the harmonization of economic, ecological, social functional, architectural and aesthetic policies are required.
Requirements for the construction area and density of construction, which are reflected in the law on neighborhoods, should be met, as well as storey issues, density of population, division of employment by sectors of economy should be regulated. Preserving of the planning structure should be ensured. The territory where the historic architectural monuments of Central Business District are densely located, historically formed part of the city and at last Icheri Sheher, should be defined as a Special Protected Area. Special protective measures should be taken in this area, administrative and public control should be strengthened. Any change in the internal and external appearance of any building or neighborhood may be possible after agreeing with the competent authorities identified by the State in advance and receiving special permits. Pedestrian zones must be specified in this area, traffic restrictions, special permits must be applied. In the world urban planning experience, progressive experiences developed for similar status areas should be studied, adapted and applied. Different urbanist tendencies in the urban area should be monitored and impacts on specific protection should be thoroughly investigated. The existence of several historical sites in this area necessitates the continuation of archaeological search.
Thus, the status of the central part of Baku city should be determined in terms of material and social-functional status and should be considered as the Central Business District in the overall structure, the borders of the service facilities should be defined, and documents that are based on scientific-practical investigations should be developed to give it legal status. This can be the basis of the planning structure and formation of the historically formed central part of Baku.