New build­ings and mod­ern ar­chi­tec­ture

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

In re­cent years, the state seems to have changed its pol­icy and has be­come more tol­er­ant in re­lax­ing plan­ning reg­u­la­tions, es­pe­cially with re­gard to large scale projects within (and out­side) ma­jor towns.

With the avail­able ar­eas of land, even those that are rel­a­tively large, how can an ar­chi­tect be ex­pected to pre­pare an in­spi­ra­tional ar­chi­tec­tural so­lu­tion when the land cov­er­age fac­tor is fixed, as is the build­ing co­ef­fi­cient, and of course the height – al­most i mpos­si­ble to cre­ate an imag­i­na­tive de­sign. What we of­ten see in in­ter­na­tional ar­chi­tec­ture mag­a­zines and con­sid­er­ing the few and some not so new de­signs, a new ap­proach to plan­ning, but es­pe­cially re­lax­ation, we do not seems to be lag­ging be­hind in qual­ity mod­ern ar­chi­tec­ture style. We have all seen some com­mend­able, mainly of­fice com­plexes, such as the new Wargam­ing HQ on Sev­eris av­enue in Nicosia, the stu­dent halls in En­gomi (Ro­tos), and even the Twin Tow­ers on the Li­mas­sol beach­front. There are also the Min­istry of Fi­nance and the Supreme Court, the cen­tral Plan­ning of­fices and oth­ers, while in terms of ho­tels I can dis­tin­guish the Ely­sium (Paphos) the Anassa (Po­lis) the Sunrise Pearl and the time­proven ho­tels like the Le Meri­dien and Four Sea­sons.

We there­fore have lo­cal, es­pe­cially young ar­chi­tects with su­pe­rior qual­ity and knowl­edge, in ad­di­tion to the more ma­ture tra­di­tional firms of ar­chi­tects who have es­caped, when given the op­por­tu­nity, from the tight lim­its of our ur­ban plan­ning sys­tem.

We are now over­whelmed with hol­i­day com­plexes, mainly 2-floor struc­ture that oc­cupy the most valu­able of prop­er­ties, the seafront, many of which look like rows of mil­i­tary bar­racks or refugee camps, such as in the Pro­taras area, Lar­naca-Ma­zo­tos, Latchi and Paphos. The only ex­cep­tion is Li­mas­sol with lo­cal de­vel­op­ers and own­ers reach­ing to new heights. The new pro­posal for the de­vel­op­ment of the space be­tween the old and new port for the con­struc­tion of of­fices and other high rises, with vast open spa­ces and am­ple park­ing, is the best that could hap­pen – per­haps be­com­ing the new Man­hat­tan of the eastern Mediter­ranean, in ad­di­tion to the other sig­nif­i­cant new projects in this town, such as the Oval.

In my opin­ion, ex­cept for spe­cial pa­ram­e­ters like build­ing co­ef­fi­cients, the rest should be left up to the pro­ject ar­chi­tect to de­velop a vi­sion with looser in­ter­pre­ta­tions and ap­pli­ca­tions.

The high-rise build­ings which de­fine and ar­chi­tec­tural skyline of each town is what is miss­ing from the lo­cal ar­chi­tec­ture of Cyprus, which has re­mained strictly sub­ject to the ex­ist­ing reg­u­la­tions in­tro­duced in the ’60s.

So, do we have ar­chi­tects who know how to de­sign the de­tails of their plan based on new trends? From my per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence of about 40 years in the busi­ness, one of the few mod­ern ar­chi­tects of his time was the late Alkis Ioan­ni­dis who used to de­sign each win­dow and each nail to be used. There are cer­tainly oth­ers of the older school.

• Own­ers – The med­dling by the own­ers in the ar­chi­tec­ture is the worst, es­pealow them to have a say. See, the ex­am­ple of a cer­tain bank in Nicosia which is a mix­ture of Byzan­tine ar­chi­tec­ture, glass, stone, etc.

• Main­te­nance ex­penses – These mod­ern build­ings have al­most dou­ble main­te­nance costs not only be­cause of re­laxed com­mon spa­ces but also be­cause of the large ex­po­sures that re­quire in­creased air con­di­tion­ing, while the ex­ter­nal clean­ing of the shell is a prob­lem (due to the ab­sence of proper pro­vi­sions).

• Re­gard­ing pri­vately owned of­fices or com­plexes, there might not be a par­tic­u­lar prob­lem of main­te­nance, but in the case of shared own­er­ship of of­fices or apart­ments, this could be a stick­ing point. In a pre­mium pro­ject on the Lar­naca seafront, the av­er­age com­mon ex­penses and main­te­nance cost of apart­ments is about 5,000 eu­ros per unit. For sure, this pro­ject will end up a run­down build­ing in a short time. The out­dated law on ten­ancy is one of the rea­sons of poor main­te­nance, while another ba­sic cri­te­rion is our men­tal­ity where we have yet to learned the facts of co­hab­ited life.

• These new build­ings, with large open spa­ces are usu­ally of me­tal con­struc­tion. But do we have but the right civil engi­neers to de­sign such build­ings and fac­to­ries to man­u­fac­ture the rods? To my knowl­edge, the ar­chi­tec­tural plans are usu­ally to a firm in Italy where the steel is built for con­struc­tion.

• The tall build­ings and those with high stan­dards needed am­ple park­ing spa­ces - at least two base­ments, while the pur­chase of ad­ja­cent land for use as park­ing (in­stead of three base­ments) may be ad­van­ta­geous. They also need 2-3 lifts. In a re­cent build­ing de­sign that was pre­sented to our of­fice for our opin­ion on its mar­ketabil­ity, for the two un­der­ground and nine over­ground floors, there were two lifts to the 4th floor af­ter which only one con­tin­ued fur­ther up. Cre­ative ar­chi­tec­ture based on wrong prin­ci­ples – they will now have to add another two ex­ter­nal glass el­e­va­tors to the 4th floor and above.

• Sup­pli­ers – Do we have qual­ity sup­pli­ers here, such as heavy-duty alu­minium man­u­fac­tur­ers, which the lo­cal crafts­men can utilise? In a re­cent ex­pe­ri­ence in Li­mas­sol, one alu­minium in­staller re­moved some com­po­nents of the fac­tory-made frame in Ger­many be­cause he con­sid­ered un­nec­es­sary, and which then cost 8,000 eu­ros to bring in the orig­i­nal Ger­man crafts­men to fix the prob­lem on­site.

So much for younger ar­chi­tects. I be­lieve that un­til we can deal with prob­lems re­lated high rises (such as winds, etc.), hir­ing for­eign ar­chi­tects in some cases may be nec­es­sary, such as the case of the ho­tel Burj Al Arab in Dubai for which the BBC made a 2-hour doc­u­men­tary to ex­plain the prob­lem of clean­ing the ground floor aquar­ium and the hu­mid­ity that is caused by in­ter­nal jets that rise three floors. On the same note, lessons should be learned from the Egyp­tian Mu­seum, the Par­lia­ment in Ber­lin and many oth­ers.

I won­der some­times if these opin­ions are based on hot air be­cause these views were ex­pressed ten years ago with the worst ex­am­ple be­ing the de­vel­op­ment of the Par­al­imni coastal front, where the build­ing co­ef­fi­cient for ho­tels was cut from 70% was 30% and in hous­ing from 40% to 30% and this af­ter the rec­om­men­da­tions of the then ur­ban plan­ner Alexan­dros Demetriou call­ing for the in­crease in the co­ef­fi­cient and height. These were re­jected at the time by the Town Plan­ning even mock­ing to say that “we are not Las Ve­gas”. What, then, is the prob­lem to break away from rigid minds of the past?

We have a Min­is­ter of In­te­rior who seems decisive and per­haps should be per­suaded to adopt a new plan­ning pol­icy, if the state’s own tech­ni­cians ad­vi­sors let him.

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