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The cultural landscape in danger of UNESCO Natural and Culturo-historical region of Kotor

Over the last decade, the region of the Bay of Kotor, which has been the UNESCO heritage site since 1979, is the area where severe destruction of the cultural landscape has occurred due to the excessive building industry, triggered by huge investments. Such appalling development of the entire Bay is threatening to devastate the fragile cultural landscape of the Bay of Kotor. Because of excessive destruction of the outstanding universal value of the cultural landscape, traditional urban settlements are endangered by the over-scaled architecture for commercial purposes.


As a result of this, the UNESCO Natural and Culturo-Historical Region of Kotor will probably soon be erased from the World Heritage list. It should also be pointed out that Boka Kotorska is a place where cultures overlap due to Roman, Byzantine, Venetian and Austro-Hungarian rule. Thus, the complexity of the landscape and its connection to the past eras is a strong argument for its valorisation by integrative approach which would first consider the social value of the cultural landscape. Such an approach to the overall socio-historical development of the region also has to contain the environmental component in many areas of management of landscape and urban planning.

Nowadays native people have lost connection with the local environment in Bay of Kotor; this has happened  by changing the way  people use landscape and by vanishing the active cultivation of the same. Moreover, the way the landscape is used has drastically changed after the last earthquake in 1979; furthermore, over the last decade it has been highly influenced by the heavy foreign investment in real estate industry.For all these reasons, the cultural landscape of the Bay of Kotor region, and Prcanj in particular, is under the big threat of losing all its inherited features represented by the materiality and the structure of the landscape itself, as well as vanishing the collective memory of its traditional character and specificity. Today, many areas have been devastated by building residential buildings without any legal certificate, thus imposing high seismic hazard; also, by interrupting the organical linkage with surrounding landscape; even, by making life more complicated and dangerous (neglecting the necessity of adequate access for personal cars, or not providing a livable neighbourhood). All these problems make a real urban chaos in some upper areas of Prcanj like Tre Sorelle and Sarena Gomila.


After the 1979 earthquake, an intensive urbanisation started without any implemented strategical urban planning. Today, some areas in Prcanj which are important for their cultural landscape, like St. Anna Valley, are threatened by uncontrolled urbanisation, like the building of a big real estate settlement, and by imposing the complete destruction of the authentic cultural landscape. Now the urge for urban legislation of the entire UNESCO area of Kotor, as well as in Prcanj, is the top priority for Montenegro, and among the aims of this report is to point to urgent actions in urban legislation and integrated approach toward cultural landscape protection, as well as to raise public awareness about its tangible and intangible features.


Due to excessive construction, the authenticity of the Region of Kotor is fading away and is rudely devastated in the name of sustainable development. However, in this case the concept of sustainability has been compromised from the very start. Such a problematic approach of urban planning is evident on the entire coast of Montenegro but it is most obvious in the region of Kotor, which is under the protection of the UNESCO. I would like to point out that the town of Kotor with its surroundings is in a chaotic situation now. Abandoned spots in the town of huge potentials such as the old abandoned site of the factory, ruins of Fjord Hotel, the modernist building of Jugooceanija, a former shipping company, and a lot of other areas of the huge potentials such as Skurda peninsula, and sports hall in Skaljari, and the building of former Autoremont are wrecked. At present, the town attempts to improve its economy by hosting big cruise ships. In that respect it has been very successful insomuch that Kotor has been proclaimed as the one of the top 5 cruising ship destination in the Mediterranean. Far more interesting topic is opening for mass tourism. Namely, every day thousands of tourist come to the Kotor, which has only 2,000 inhabitants. Does the town need so many tourists come for one day sightseeing tour, or better to say half day sightseeing tour? Does it mean that the citizens would not be able to come to the town centre during working hours or to reach the health institutions in proper time because of crowded streets?

Kotor is the town that has only one road which runs along the waterfront. Due to numerous vehicles which travel along this road, traffic congestions frequently occur, especially in summer. Furthermore, the local seashore roads are without the proper signalization, with holes, pits and bumps, which makes the transportation, from Tivat to Kotor in particular, very annoying and frustrating but also very dangerous. All these issues and historical permanence in a collision with the current mass cruise tourism cause many problems. An average tourist who would like to spend a couple of days in Kotor cannot properly enjoy his or her vacation. It means that smart mobility needs to be introduced in the immediate vicinity to provide a liveable environment for the younger generation to come but also for its well-recognized tourist activity in the town of Kotor. Furthermore, cruise ships cause problems which must be solved urgently because of their adverse effect on the environment. They produce air pollution and damage the marine ecosystem in many ways which have a negative impact on the fishing industry, and thus cause the socio-economic turbulence that leads to complete relocation of domicile population.


In addition to this, there are many problems arising from the improper regional planning, whereby high buildings have been constructed in the pristine cultural landscape proclaimed as the World Cultural Heritage.

The following key points highlight the issues arising from the ongoing building activities that have negative impact on the protected area of the Bay of Kotor and pose a threat to its Outstanding Universal Value.

  • Emerging of poorly planned settlements in UNESCO Natural and Culturo-Historical Region of Kotor, which poses a threat to the outstanding universal value of property

  • Building of improperly planned settlements without any urban strategy or management plan, which makes an unprecedented negative visual impact on the seashore line and vistas on the historical monuments and urban ensembles of outstanding universal value;

  • Settlements planned and made in locations not suitable for their character because of the unique and practically harsh natural environment in the region of seashore forests and cliffs, which ruins the integrity of the landscape itself;

  • Settlements built without any prior strategy, thus living in them may be dangerous and complicated because of pollution of water, environmental degradation, ecosystem collapse, a danger of forest fires, high seismic risk etc.;

  • Accepting the urban plan that proposes big and radical intervention in the landscape, that might probably invade the integrity of the cultural landscape and destroy its outstanding universal value by building a traffic motorway, a bridge or other large infrastructural elements for which consulting with UNESCO experts and making Heritage Assessment plan is necessary.

  • ​Building contemporary structures in a landscape that is not suitable for them because of its characteristics, design or terrain feature, which has a negative and unprecedented impact on the entire cultural landscape and natural scenery;

  • The non-professional or cheap commercial buildings made without any legal certificate that threatens to destroy the unique traditional way of life of local people;

  • Concreting the seashore at the places of former family piers or building new ones without using the traditional monolith stone techniques, destroying the fertile sea ecosystem and artistic traditional appearance of the sea line;

  • Destruction of traditional olive and oak forests, traditional steep agricultural terraces and traditional historical-artistic gardens of outstanding value behind the palaces and family homes;

  • Non-professional restoration of protected historical family buildings without any regard for their integrity, which threatens to degrade the universal value of the buildings (opening the roof terraces, division of historical balustrades, altering the height of historical buildings, houses or palaces, making the roof covering with non-traditional techniques, changing the traditional bearing construction (especially the concrete ones), changing the original look of the facades, replacing the traditional wooden openings for doors and windows) with the ones made of PVC, AL,...etc.;

  • Degradation of the value of historical palaces and their ancient artistic furniture, interior decorations, aristocratic family libraries and artistic paintings, because of: leaving the property without owners, multiple selling of the property to foreign investors that neglect its historical value and the lack of the regulations and statistics data of movable cultural treasures and regulations for itself.


Kusevic, B. (2017).The cultural landscape in danger of Bay of Kotor ‘‘The Archive of Landscapes”. [date]


Dobrota, Montenegro. Photo by Bogdan Kusevic

Degradation of integrity of the cultural landscape in the town of Prcanj, Dobrota, Kostanjica

Photographs by Bogdan Kusevic

Degradation of monuments of UNESCO Natural and Culturo-Historical region of Kotor

Photographs by Bogdan Kusevic

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