CULTURE

Nicosia’s new architecture

When traveling on the striking motorway connecting the airport of Larnaca with Nicosia, Cyprus’s capital, unsuspecting visitors are caught off guard by the buildings on the outskirts of Nicosia, which reflect a sense of order and prosperity. Makarios Avenue is a less aggressive version of Kifissias Avenue in Athens, with its own glass towers, hosting mainly banks and shopping malls, all of them bearing witness to Cyprus’s economic miracle. Cars with plates from the Turkish part of Cyprus try to find their way to seaside resorts. The Mediterranean atmosphere that prevails is very pleasant: There are lots of cafes, restaurants, shops and houses in the suburbs of Nicosia that are highly reminiscent of Athenian middle-class neighborhoods like Halandri, Aghia Paraskevi and Maroussi. Construction sites and cranes can be seen all the way to the city center. A building frenzy has overtaken the new part of the city, which has developed at an amazing pace since the Turkish invasion of 1974. Comparisons are inevitable: There is more breathing space between the buildings, most of which reflect an architectural presence. The soccer stadium at the city’s entrance, where the Champions League Olympiakos-Maccabi Haifa match took place last year, ranks high on the list of new European stadiums. Its spiral-shaped tiers heading up to the sky could be compared to a stroke of Dali’s brush in the air, while the excellent quality of the construction is equally striking. We can only hope that those building facilities for Athens 2004 will get some of their inspiration from that stadium. Once the new stadium was completed, the old one, situated in one of the most central parts of Nicosia, was demolished. The Cyprus Theatrical Organization will be hosted in its place, while a park is also being designed. The organization had been facing an acute housing problem for a long time, and after an architectural competition the first prize went to Harilaos Kythreotis’s architectural office. The young architect has managed to provide harmonious coexistence for the building and the park. He lined up the bulk of the facade to face the park and designed two sloping surfaces that will lead spectators from the park to the theater’s interior and the foyer. An atrium in the middle of the building provides the foyer and the actors’ dressing rooms with natural light. The main stage, shaped like a horseshoe, and the small stage, reminiscent of a square courtyard with its large doors leading outdoors, give the impression of one hall that extends to two stories. The Theatrical Organization’s new building is yet another addition to a series of major works, like the new Parliament Building and the new Hall of Justice, that bear evidence of a new era for Nicosia.