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Cyprus Internet Directory [ Adapted plans accepted for Eleftheria Square ]

Adapted plans accepted for Eleftheria Square

FOR NICOSIANS it must seem as if the proposed 8.5 million euro redevelopment of Eleftheria Square is going nowhere, and motorists and pedestrians alike are all stuck negotiating themselves around a barricaded construction site. Behind the scenes, however, the project is moving ahead significantly.

If construction progresses to schedule, building work will actually begin in the early months of 2011. The reason for the delays is that, upon excavation, the Venetian walls were found to extend more deeply than had previously been thought. With this discovery, the Antiquities Department insisted on changes to the original plans submitted by London-based Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid. Those changes have now been made. The Venetian walls will now be more visible and the square itself will no longer touch upon the D’Avila bastion. This will allow the full height of the old wall to be seen both from the square and also from the landscaped park with amenities which has been planned for the current moat area.

The new plans, known as “The Intermediate Design Project”, have now been approved. However, structural engineering considerations need to be worked out before any work can begin, which is why the cordoned-off area behind barricades remain without anybody working there.

It is anticipated that the structural engineering side will be completed by around June or July of 2010, with the whole project completed by December 2012, though Eleftheria Square itself should be ready for July of 2012. The timing is scheduled to coincide with Cyprus’ assumption of the rotating EU Presidency. Given the large-scale remodelling which the redevelopment plans involve, this timescale would mean two very intense years of rapid construction.

So what will the new square look like?

“The subordinate bridge, which is now referred to as ‘a square’, will be lowered and with it everything found upon it. This particular bridge never constituted a square (in the sense of a large common social space) it was and is the most important connection point between the old city and the new town,” commented Chrysanthos Pissarides, vice-president of the Architects’ Association and a member of the assessment committee for the remodelling of Eleftheria Square.

The redevelopment plans are actually composed of three separate and distinct, though connected, projects. There are the Hadid plans for Eleftheria Square, which may be viewed on the Nicosia Municipality’s website. Then there is the redevelopment of Solomou Square, which comes under the Nicosia Master Plan and will also be completed as part of the overall project. Finally, there is the landscaped design of the park areas beneath the walls, both to the east and the west of Eleftheria Square.

To the west of the square, in the moat area, a children’s park and a small theatre for open-air presentations is to be developed. The eastern part of the landscaped park area is to include the lower level of Eleftheria Square and will extend into the moat area which is to be transformed into a social space with a cafeteria, lots of greenery and the two kiosks currently to be found in the square itself which will be relocated there.

“A person who finds himself in the moat area will be able to see the D’Avila bastion – it’s lower part as much as its upper reaches – as well as the largest part of it to both the left and the right, on account of the fact that the square itself is pulled back both from the bastion itself and equally so from the periphery of the [Venetian] wall,” explained Pissarides.

More technically, the redevelopment will provide for a split-level Eleftheria Square – an upper part and a lower part – with improved access between the two levels. The lower level will connect through to the moat area which is to be redesigned into a garden-park space. The upper level will have the road lanes which currently traverse it reduced from four to two and, furthermore, at night these two lanes will be closed off by rising bollards so as to create a space for common social meetings.

The split-level design of Eleftheria Square means that once construction has been completed there will be a covered, lower-level which it is hoped will become a popular social space.

But from the outset the project has met with vociferous criticism. “Here we are, an 800 year old city, and we put our social life under a bridge,” commented Anna Marangou, architect, former mayoral candidate and head of the group Nicosia Citizens Against The Transformation of Eleftheria Square. She fully accepts that the square and its environs need upgrading, but argues that the present project has no regard for Nicosia’s historical status.

“The whole project is illegal, the moat is a Category A listed monument, nobody is allowed to build within it. Why has the Department of Antiquities given the authority to do this?”

For Marangou, the changes made to the original plans to allow greater display of the Venetian walls are irrelevant as the whole project is flawed.

Chrysanthos Pissarides concedes that reactions to the plans have been both positive and negative. “This always happens with projects of this size which significantly alter the image of the city in question and it does not happen only in Cyprus but all over the world with, in fact, far bigger public reaction and discussions,” he said.

The Municipality is planning events for the public to receive detailed information on the nature of the redevelopment and its ongoing state of progress.

“We will have a public exhibition [on the redevelopment] but we don’t have it ready quite yet,” said Makis Nicolaides of the Nicosia Municipality.

The redevelopment of Eleftheria Square as a project has now passed from the initial designers – Zaha Hadid Architects – to Saverios Vrahimis, of the Nicosia-based architectural firm Modinos and Vrahimis, who is in charge of the actual implementation phase of the project and is the designated director of the project for the municipality. This is the same firm which has been responsible for putting together the interior of Paphos airport, the interior of the new airport in Larnaca and Limassol’s new marina.

Nicosia Municipality website

(Source: Cyprus Mail)
Copyright © Cyprus Mail 2008 Please contact Cyprus Mail for the copyright terms of this article.

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