AZ   |   EN

Design theme of the city of Baku

Baku is a historic city situated on the west coast of the Caspian Sea, south of the Absheron peninsula. Baku is the capital of the independent Republic of Azerbaijan, a major scientific, cultural and industrial center. Baku is one of the largest cities in the East rich in architectural monuments for its antiquity, area size and population. The total area of Azerbaijan is 2,200 square kilometers. The republic consists of 11 administrative districts. The population of Baku is estimated to be over 2 million people. 

Ancient Baku - fortress city had different names. According to the Persian historical sources, it is clear that Baku was called “Badi-Kuba” fortress city which means “the fortress city of winds”.  It is known that in ancient times, the cities built along the ocean and seashores were windy and struck by tsunamis. However, none of them was called the city of winds. If we consult the Arabic dictionary, we can find the corresponding name "Badi-Kaaba", which means “the city after the Holy Kaaba” in translation. 

Of no less valuable documents with extant names of Baku are inscriptions on walls of mosques on the territory of the old fortress. An inscription carved on a wall at the foundation of the minaret of Juma-mosque near the Maiden Tower reads a text of Elkhani Sultan Mohammad Aljayru (ruler 1304-1316). It presents a word “Baku” as Bakuya. As testified by numismatic data, coins minted in Baku in the 14th-15th centuries by Elkhanids, Jelairides and Shirvanshahs, present a word “Baku” as “Bakuya”. The Russian sources give the name of Baku as “Baka”. Finally, Azerbaijanis, including the people of Absheron called their city Baku (i).

The period from early 12th century to the 1220s of the 13th century was the Baku’s first flourishing period. The 15th century is the period of flourishing of urban culture when Baku became the capital of the Shirvanshah State, one of the most feudal formations on the territory of Azerbaijan.   

Azerbaijan has always been art-rich nation, along with its architectural monuments, which are one of the branches of folk art since ancient times. The Maiden Tower is one of the most significant architectural monuments of Baku. Samples of engraving on the Bayil Castle (13th century), figures of horses and sheep placed on the graves (15-19 centuries) can also be considered a new and memorable page of sculpture. Keeping the character of a frieze, in due time “Bayil stones” constituted a decorative element of a magnificent architectural monument located on the land.

Carpets woven at different times and in different schools of carpet weaving in Azerbaijan, as well as in Baku, still fascinate with their beauty. Many of them are preserved in famous museums of the world now.     

Among the Gobustan cave paintings, the figures depicting people performing the “Yally” dance deserve special attention. These drawings show that the Azerbaijani people have been interested in music since ancient times. 

Acting as a bridge between East and West, Baku have brought together different cultures and civilizations for centuries. Maintaining strong economic and cultural ties with Central Asia, the Middle East and other regions through caravan and maritime trade, Baku was known as an oil and salt exporter. Baku had become a center of culture and commerce through its peculiar path of development. 

The history of Baku is closely connected with one of the precious resources of the Azerbaijani people - oil. Strategically important oil was first discovered and extracted in the Absheron peninsula. The oil-industry dates from the moment mechanical boring equipment begins operations. The first oil well in the world was drilled in Baku in 1847 at Bibi-Heybat oil field. 

The first oil tanker in the world “Zoroaster” was introduced by the Nobel Brothers Company in Baku in 1879. However, 70 years later the ship was sunk in the Soviet times with a view to create the world's first offshore oil platform, the famous Oil Rocks. Azerbaijani oilmen have opened a new page in history, extracting hydrocarbons from the seabed in the Oil Rocks founded in 1947. At present, the Oil Rocks is the furthest eastern settlement in the country.  Several spectacular action sequences in the 19th installment of the James Bond series "The World is Not Enough" were filmed just in the oil fields in Baku and at Oil Rocks in 1999. 

Apart from oil, Baku is also the center for science, education, culture and sports in Azerbaijan. Baku is the birthplace of the first opera, ballet and university in the Muslim East. The first school for the Muslim girls was opened exactly in Baku, in 1901, at Haji Zeynalabdin Tagiyev’s expense, an oil magnate who considered the education of girls very important.  He reckoned the literate woman as the leading force of the nation. One of the Lumiere Brothers’ first films "Oil Wells of Baku: Close View," was shot in 1896 by Kamill Serf. Baku, one of the great ports of the Russian Empire in 1900s, is considered the birthplace of the first Soviet trams (1924) and intercity trains (1926). 

The magnificent harmony of Eastern and Western architecture, as well as the buildings built during the first oil boom (1872-1920), still create a unique atmosphere in Baku and affect the city's architecture. The traces of the most ancient history of Baku are in Icheri Sheher. With its dense infrastructure, Baku has been located between the fortress walls for thousands of years. At present, more than 50 historical and architectural monuments are preserved here. Among them are the 12th century monument Maiden Tower, a much loved symbol of the city, and Shirvanshahs Palace (1420-1460). In 2000, Icheri Sheher together with Maiden Tower and the Shirvanshahs’ Palace, were added to the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List and are being preserved by UNESCO as a historical-architectural reserve.  Qala Archaeological and Ethnographic Museum Complex in the open air is one of the monuments of ancient history of Baku. Archaeological finds and architectural monuments in the territory of Qala dates back from the 3rd millennium BC to the 20th century.

Baku is the largest cultural center of Azerbaijan. It is the place where a national theatre, the first in the Muslim East, lifted the curtain, the first opera was performed, the first Azerbaijani newspaper was published, and the first Azerbaijani library was opened. The city's most beautiful and distinctive architectural styles mainly pertain to museums, theaters and libraries.

The spirit of modern Baku is truly attractive. Rich in ancient history, Baku is developing dynamically today. There are modern-style museums, theaters, concert halls, Seaside National Park, as well as cafes and restaurants with national and foreign cuisine in Baku. 

The buildings that landscape the modern view of Baku include the Heydar Aliyev Center (architect Zaha Hadid, 2013), the International Mugham Center (2008), the Azerbaijan Carpet Museum (architect Franz Yants, 2014), the Baku International Bus Terminal (2010), the International Airport (2014). These glass and steel constructions give the city a new look. The building of the Azerbaijan Carpet Museum on the seafront boulevard is constructed in the form of a semi-rolled carpet.

Baku was included in UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network List. As a result of the efforts of the First Vice-President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Mehriban Aliyeva, the Ministries of Culture and Foreign Affairs and the Permanent Delegation of the Republic of Azerbaijan to UNESCO, Baku was designated as the UNESCO Creative Cities Network for design.

On the occasion of the World Cities’ Day, celebrated on October 31, UNESCO designated 66 cities from 48 countries to join the Organization’s Network of Creative Cities. The Network brings together cities that base their development on creativity, whether in music, arts and folk crafts, design, cinema, literature, digital arts or gastronomy. The network considers innovation and creativity as the key factor in the sustainable and more inclusive development of the new city strategy.  

UNESCO creative cities commit to placing culture at the centre of their development strategies and to share their best practices. Since 2004, the Creative Cities Network has devised seven thematic networks from which the cities may choose: literature, cinema, music, crafts and folk art, design, media arts, gastronomy. The UNESCO Creative Cities Network now counts a total of 246 cities. 

Note that the city of Sheki has been a member of the “crafts and folk art” network since 2017.