New agency is created to attract and manage funds from future donors and investors for historic district of Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina

On July 23, 2004, the World Monuments Fund (WMF) and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) participate in festivities to celebrate the completed restoration of the sixteenth-century Old Bridge (Stari Most)-a treasured landmark in the historic city of Mostar-and announce the establishment of the Starigrad (historic city) Agency, which will help guide and manage future restoration and reconstruction projects in historic Mostar. The Bridge restoration was the centerpiece of a larger initiative for the rehabilitation of historic Mostar.

The Old Bridge, constructed in 1566 at the height of the Ottoman Empire, during the reign of Suleyman the Magnificent, transformed Mostar from a quiet settlement into a cosmopolitan crossroads rich in architecture from the Ottoman and Hapsburg periods. It was destroyed in 1993, during the Bosnian conflict that damaged much of the city's architectural and social fabric and plunged it into decline. Since 1999, the AKTC-WMF program has been investing in planning for the rehabilitation of the city's urban fabric and restoration of key buildings and streetscapes surrounding the bridge. These efforts were a response to the urgent need for the reconstruction of the historic city and for putting a halt to the hasty and unregulated development that took place in the aftermath of the war.

Bonnie Burnham, President, World Monuments Fund, states, "Mostar is one of the world's great urban treasures, and the enormous losses it has sustained are a tragic emblem of the dire consequences of war. From the outset, reconstruction of the city's Old Bridge was viewed as one element in a larger project for the restoration of historic Mostar. Indeed, the Bridge can have context and meaning only with the in-depth rehabilitation of the historic neighborhoods that flank it on the banks of the Neretva. This is why the Starigrad Agency is so important. The World Monuments Fund is deeply grateful to its trustee Robert Wilson for creating the Robert W. Wilson Challenge to Conserve our Heritage, enabling WMF to join the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in this important work."

Stefano Bianca, Director, Historic Cities Support Programme of the Aga Kahn Trust, added, "In 1986, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture gave Mostar an architecture award for restoration. Tragically, most of what was accomplished has been destroyed. When the Trust later became involved in the reconstruction of the Old City, it was fortunate to be able to collaborate with the World Monuments Fund in restoration and reconstruction efforts, as well as in developing a comprehensive rehabilitation plan for the future. The Starigrad Agency will oversee the crucial work on this plan." Mostar: Destruction and Rehabilitation

Mostar was a popular tourist destination: an ethnically diverse, cosmopolitan city that was internationally celebrated for its rich palette of architectural styles, ranging from Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian to, more recently, Socialist structures. However, like so many places in the region, Mostar was decimated by the civil war that followed the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe, when the destruction of historic structures and sites considered sacred by different groups was a deliberate tactic used by both sides. Together, the AKTC and WMF have contributed US $5 million to this restoration program, which has attracted further investment of US $2.5 million from the World Bank.

Among the accomplishments of the AKTC-WMF partnership are:

Development of a master plan for the historic center of Mostar (within its 1918 boundaries);
Substantial restoration of the urban fabric surrounding the Bridge, including appropriate paving, lighting, and repairs to key buildings, helping to restore the character of the areas;
Identification of key projects for future investment of resources;
Creation of the Starigrad Agency, which will oversee the continued development of Mostar in a way that preserves its historic qualities and encourages the growth of cultural tourism;
Training of young Bosnian architects, who formed the core of the AKTC-WMF Mostar partnership.

It is hoped that these achievements have laid a solid foundation for future work in this important city. However, much remains to be done in Mostar as ruins of historic buildings still await restoration and conversion to public and civic use. The important work completed so far, as well as plans and designs for future project, is documented in the brochure, "Conservation and Revitalization of Historic Mostar" available from the AKTC.

World Monuments Fund

The World Monuments Fund is the foremost private, nonprofit organization devoted to onsite conservation of monuments and sites worldwide. Since its founding in 1965, the organization has achieved an unmatched record of successful international conservation projects in more than eighty countries. From its headquarters in New York, and working with affiliates and offices in France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and the United Kingdom, as well as with partners around the world, WMF brings together public and private support to implement a comprehensive conservation effort that includes project planning, field surveys, fieldwork, on-site training in the building crafts, advocacy, and the development of long-term strategies for the protection of monuments and sites.

Aga Khan Trust for Culture

The Aga Khan Trust for Culture is the cultural agency of the Aga Khan Development Network a group of eight development agencies working in health, education, culture, and rural and economic development, primarily in Asia and Africa. The Trust for Culture focuses on the physical, social, cultural, and economic revitalization of communities in the Muslim world. It includes the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, the Historic Cities Support Programme, the Music Initiative in Central Asia, the Humanities Project, the on-line resource ArchNet, and the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

For additional information about WMF, contact Lisbeth Mark, Jeanne Collins & Associates, LLC, New York City, 646-486-7050;

For additional information about the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, contact Stefano Bianco, AKTC, Geneva, 41-22-909-72-00, or