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Architecture in Cyprus

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between the 1930s and 1970s
T H E S E A R C H F O R M O D E R N H E R I TA G E

S T E FA N O S F E R E O S A N D P E T R O S P H O K A I D E S

of architectural styles were realized


with no single or dominant trend.
The limestone or pouropetra was
used extensively, creating
the appearance of continuity with
the local historical architecture.
Lefkosias Venetian walls were made
of this dark-yellow soft stone, which
during this period was used in
the construction of heteroclite
buildings, from neoclassical schools
and bourgeois residences to

Stefanos Fereos, 2003


colonial government police stations
(fig. 1) and administration buildings.

From the 1930s onwards cities


further developed and the first
Fig. 1. Front facade of the colonial police station in limestone. The rationalistic style is combined with public buildings were erected along
a traditional architectural idiom
the lines of international modernism.
A significant role was played by
The development of modern of independent state. After 1960 the architect Polys Michailides in
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architecture in Cyprus is connected and for two decades a powerful the modernization of architecture
both with the unstable political modernization process took place, during this period. After a short
conditions and with the absence introducing the cult of modern in term in Le Corbusiers office
of architecture schools. Local architecture and in every other in Paris, and collaboration with
architecture followed the ups aspect of social life. Thoukidides Valentis1 in Athens,
and downs of the political scene
Stefanos Fereos, 2003

and, until recently, was produced 19301960:


by individuals educated and trained THE POUROPETRA PERIOD

abroad, in centers of varied In Cyprus the period from 1930


architectural cultures. to 1960 was a transitional stage
The introduction of modern not only for political and social
architecture must be placed in conditions but also for architecture,
the early 1930s when Cypriot during which the country moved
society, under British colonial rule away from an anonymous
since 1878, showed the first signs vernacular production to take part
of a rudimentary political and social in international trends. In the 1930s
organization. After World War II, the first qualified Cypriot architects
the strategic military importance returned after finishing their studies
of Cyprus in the Eastern abroad, to introduce the first
Mediterranean increased and, modern characteristics in the
between 1945 and 1960, countrys architecture. Until then,
Fig. 2. Polys Michailides, Orphanage building,
a program of infrastructure the majority of architects were view of the front elevation, Lefkosia, c. 1934
and legislation implemented by foreigners who worked either
the colonial government was individually designing schools, he permanently settled in Cyprus
the foundation for economic churches or houses for the elite, around 1930. The front elevation
development and urbanization. or as employees in the Public Works of the Orphanage building (fig. 2),
The first public modern buildings Department of the British colonial which he designed in 1935, reflects
were constructed. government. In the capital Lefkosia, the transitional nature of the local
Between 1930 and 1960 Cyprus the main center of architectural modern buildings of this period.
evolved from colonial status to that production, buildings of a variety Limestone is ingeniously combined

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with concrete, the new hybrid


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Architektoniki 55, 1966


material that invaded architecture
in Cyprus, with an outcome that
could ultimately be characterized
as local idiom. Initially, limestone
was used as a load bearing
material, producing massive facings
and facade elements, following
the stylistic theories of rationalism.
In later years, the architectural
vocabulary became more pluralistic,
and while the concrete elements
Fig. 3. Iakovos and Andreas Philippou, Kykkos high school, perspective view, Lefkosia, c. 1960
were increasingly stressed,
limestone acquired the purely
stylistic role of covering the facade. extensive publication, dedicated to space. A system of sun-protection
In this postwar period, during which the realized works of Cypriot louvers, patterned as brise-soleils,
urbanization intensified and tall modernism, one can read the image was facilitated by the standardization
apartment and office blocks of a society that moves, works and which the new material provided.
appeared, concrete frames were entertains itself in a modern Finally, the exposed concrete on
introduced, turning walls into mere landscape. the external surface of the staircase
partitioning panels and thus Designed in 1960, the Kykkos high epitomizes both the functionalistic
rendering the load bearing local school project for boys and girls principles of the architecture of this
stone unnecessary. (fig. 3) is one of the first buildings period and the accompanying
Zembylas & Kythreotis architectural office archive

Architektoniki 55, 1966


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Fig. 4. Takis Zembylas and Diomidis Kythreotis,


entrance of the wholesale market, Lefkosia, c. 1965

19601974:
DISCOVERING
THE CONCRETE FRAME
Fig. 6
AND MODERN CULTURE
The period between 1960 and 1974
is the first and perhaps the only time
when a unified style in architecture
emerges; one which reflects
the dynamic conjuncture: architects
Fig. 5. Iakovos and Andreas Philippou, Koupati showroom and office building, perspective
equipped with the enthusiasm
view, Lefkosia, 19611965
of their youth, showing up in
the nick of time, when independence where the new material, concrete, freedom in facing, in terms of form
ensured the potential for both was applied according to the shaping, plasticity and complexity.
spiritual and economic development. current international stylistic codes. This was further explored when
The newly arrived architects and The young brothers Iakovos and the character of the project and
the ones that were already Andreas Filippou, who had studied the building program enabled
designing in the modern style in Milan and London, used the architect to express the new
produced significant works during a reinforced concrete frame as materials capacities, providing
this period, which are recorded in a supporting structure, with pilotis wide spanning structures for factories,
a 1966 issue of the Greek enabling easy access to the building, markets (fig. 4) and stadiums.
architecture magazine Architecture allowing for greater openings and During this era, the concept of
(in Greek, Architektoniki).2 In this the possibility of a transparent fluid functionalism dominated design

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process, from the rational Kanthos (fig. 6). It is the first house and direction of sunlight and treat

CONTRIBUTIONS
organization of circulations and realized in Cyprus with purely the elevations accordingly.
distribution of program in space modern characteristics: distinct He rejected the obvious solution of
to the shaping of building forms. functional division of the sleeping opening the apartments onto
Addressing the design problem zone from the social functions, use the view of the historic centers
of multi-purpose buildings, and in of the pilotis and open plan that Venetian walls, in favor of a concrete
a way interpreting the building bring about the clear distinction design strategy that finally produced
legislation codes,3 the ground floor of supporting structure and walls, an unusual form of apartment
is often shaped in a flexible and finally the obvious plasticity building.5
manner, separated from the upper of the building. The architect freely The use of local material, typologies
floors (offices or apartments) that shaped the horizontal slabs, often referring to vernacular housing
form rectangular prisms. At times extended in cantilevers and layouts and the adaptation of
the ground floor follows the sites balconies, and he treat[ed] buildings to local climatic conditions
irregular nature, producing twisted openings as special transitional set Michailidess work in the orbit
and angular shapes, guiding the zones with the ability to correspond of a potential critical production.
flow of people around the building; to the special conditions imposed by His passion for research and revival
or else it forms a recess allowing climate and light.4 of the virtues of traditional
the creation of an arcade. Often His interest in the climatic architecture in a pure modern
the first floor is a volume lifted responsiveness of the buildings is language led to a comparison with
above ground level (fig. 5), while manifest in his larger residential the Greek architect Aris
the staircase appears as an projects. Multi-story buildings were Konstantinides. This comparison,
autonomous element, stressing designed as large concrete although it has not been studied in
the functional importance of vertical structures consisting of repetitive depth, helps to evaluate Michailidess

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Architektoniki 55, 1966

Fig. 6. Neoptolemos Michailides, Kanthos residence, West facade, Lefkosia, 19491952 Fig. 7. Neoptolemos Michailides, Demetriou apartment building Petros Phokaides, 2003

(poly-katoikia), view overlooking the Venetian walls of Lefkosia, c. 1965

circulations; it also provides a visual vertical elements combined with work and shows that modern
counterweight to the concrete horizontal plates accommodating Cypriot architecture aspiredlike
horizontal elements, which in this the program. In an experimental any local architectureat creating
period were used extensively in the work of structural rationalism, its own symbolic figures.
composition of facades. an apartment building in Lefkosia
(fig. 7), Michailides exposes TRACES OF MODERN
THE CASE the concrete-frame construction LOCALISM
OF NEOPTOLEMOS system, pushing the Dom-Ino concept Architects can become symbols
MICHAILIDES further. The rooftops construction of general trends. Likewise,
In this context the work of frame is unfinished, creating a architecture can be read as
Neoptolemos Michailides stands out covered terrace that shows the the symbolic image of a period
as a paradigmatic example, where possibility of a future extension. The expressing the circumstances
the designers intentions are structural elements and the concrete that stimulated its production.
readable with unprecedented clarity. sun-protection louvers are Thus, alongside the localism
In 1948, while still an architecture emphasized, expressing the of Michailides, which has come to
student in Milan, he designed the architects need to expand the be seen as an individual
residence of the painter Theodotos materials use, to control the amount phenomenon, what is revealed is

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studies at the cole des Beaux-arts


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in Paris in 1950, Dimitris


Thymopoulos returned to Cyprus,
and for a decade designed and
constructed a significant number
of new school buildings, creating
a prototype model still applied until
recently (fig. 9).

As far as residential architecture is


concerned, the modern movement is
associated mostly with the middle
class. The scale of Cyprus and the
small number of architecture firms
were propitious to the dissemination
of a unified style in housing
architecture, found equally in urban
and rural areas. Stavros
Economous housing layouts can be
identified as perhaps the most
Fig. 8. The modern landscape constructed on Famagusta beach, in the 1970s common type seen in this period.
His architectural language, as
also architectures unintentional loose and unified. observed in his own house (fig. 10),
local character. The development Concrete dominates as the building is based on the Villa Savoye model
and prevalence of modern material during this period. and Corbusian vocabulary. On the
architecture in Cyprus mirrored Requiring no initial technical ground floor, the buildings shape
the modernization process that took expertise in its application, it was and skin form a recess, revealing its
place right after the independence, adopted by the non-specialized structure and providing a transition
and invaded every aspect of social building industry in Cyprus. from the public street space to
and individual life. Furthermore, The technical know-how the private residence. White stucco
images of modern life were subsequently achieved facilitated covers almost all the elements of
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adopted in emulation of the global the construction of large the building and, along with the
life-style broadcasted on TV, starting infrastructure such as water dams, rationally organized plan, indicates
from the 1950s, or in popular while also helping architects the architects purist intention.
magazines and, more significantly involved in projects with bold
yet, the cinema. Examined today, structures that demonstrated the The design of single-family
the projected images of this period materials capacities and yielded dwellings is one of the main design
show societys expectations for up- a type of structural expressionism. issues addressed by local architects.
to-date and modern life styles. The economy of tourism supported In contrast to the vernacular type of
by both the state and the private housing still built at the time, a new
The general architectural sector began its development during kind of private space and way of
developments of this period are this period. Architects carried out life are introduced: the layouts
based on the colonial legislation projects for tourist facilities and program is reorganized, with public
of 1943. In the provisions of hotel complexes. The vertical spaces (kitchen, living room) linked
colonial law relating to the roads landscape of Famagusta that rose to the entrance and distinctly
and buildings, there were no next to the sea became a major separated from the private spaces
restrictions concerning the destination of local society forming (bedrooms, bathroom) which are
expression of modern architecture. a new kind of public space where often housed on a different floor
Conditions for suburban vacation and recreation became level. The open plan is applied to
development already existed social phenomena (fig. 8). the ground floor, where free walls
in Lefkosia, only a few meters from distribute the program, and where
the historical center, and, buttressed In school and church architecture, the transparency achieved by large
by the countrys economic situation, a number of new modern-style openings defines the relation with
facilitated the absorption of modern buildings were constructed during the outdoor spaces.
architecture. The rules of building this period, bearing witness to Local culture and traditional
laws and the freedom provided the assimilation of modernism architecture play a prominent role
by new materials were favorable by conservative social institutions. in the production of a local style,
to the development of modern Through the new school buildings, owing either to the use of local
architecture. As a result, architecture modern architecture established its materials or to that of decorative
mainly produced self-related pioneering role as a catalyst of motifs in the interior layouts.
buildings in an urban context both modern education. After finishing his The arches which previously

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appeared in colonial architecture

Architektoniki 55, 1966

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and later in the work of a minority
of architects constitute a direct
reference to a local historical and
traditional pattern. At the same
time, architecture adapts to the local
climate, re-interpreting the vernacular
architectural solutions of in-between
spaces to control climatic conditions.
Sun-protection louvers and
cantilevers become distinctive
features of the local production.
Furthermore, the care brought to
outdoor spaces and their treatment
with vegetation are characteristic
of the local culture.
Fig. 9. Dimitris Thymopoulos, Lykavitos elementary school, one of the first modern schools
The modern era ended with yet of Cyprus, Lefkosia, 19551957
another political break. The 1974
events resulted in a dichotomy
henceforth dividing the country and BIBLIOGRAPHY
interrupted the development process FILIPPIDIS, DIMITRIS. Five essays on Aris was to use 70% of the sites area on
Konstantinides. Athens: Libro, 1997. the ground floor, 50% on the first floor
that had begun in the 1960s. FILIPPIDIS, DIMITRIS. New-Greek architecture. and 30% on the upper floors, with no limit
A psychological barrier emerged, Athens: Melissa, 1984. for the number of floors or the total height
leaving the modern heritage SIMEOFORIDIS, GEORGE, AND GIANNIS AESOPOS, of the building.
eds. Landscapes of Modernization: Greek 4 Zinon Sierepeklis, Routes of Cypriot
underestimated and hardly
Architecture 1960s and 1990s. Athens: architecture, after the war, lecture (Lefkosia:
researchable. Mechanisms Metapolis, 2002. 1984).
and institutions that could produce 5 Everything here has an emphatic
knowledge and create conditions NOTES sharpness and one could say a stilted
1 Thoukidides Valentis (19081982) was indifference for anything conventional.
for criticism and architectural
a Greek architect, a member of the Greek Thus we have an open war with established
discourse were absent until recently. CIAM team and professor at the values, an imposition of the ugly as 19
With the establishment of new Architecture School of the N.T.U. of Athens. a legitimate element of the enterprising.
architecture schools in the past few 2 Architektoniki 55, 1966. Dimitris Filippidis, Five essays on Aris
3 One of the rules of the building legislation Konstantinides (Athens: Libro, 1997).
years, a chance is given to scientific
research on the questions posed by
the work produced until 1974. Fig. 10. Stavros Economou, the architects house, Lefkosia, 19561958
At a time when the state sought to
promote self-rule, did society
participate actively in this
modernization process? Was the
modern style absorbed consciously
as a symbol of progress? Did it
really come as break with the past?
Who wanted it and why? Was
architecture an active contributor
or was it simply the background
for the 1960s lifestyle as depicted
in photographic archives?

STEFANOS FEREOS, born in Nicosia


in 1978, studied architecture at the Ethniko
Metsovio Polytechnio in Athens, where he
completed his Masters dissertation in the field
of urbanism (2005). Practising architect, he is
also secretary general of Students and Young
personal archive of Stavros Economou

Architects of the Cyprus Architect Association.


stefanos@fereosandassociates.com

PETROS PHOKAIDES, born in Lefkosia


in 1978, studied architecture at the National
Technical University of Athens (2005) where
he is a postgraduate student in architecture
and space design. He is a practising architect
in Athens. petros.phokaides@gmail.com

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