Reappropriation of Churches in Nicosia
Monasteries is a project situated in the centre of Nicosia; the capital of Cyprus. The project proposes the reappropriation and transformation of existing churches into monasteries. The concept of the Nicosian monastery as an architectural typology is inherent in the geopolitical condition of both Cyprus and Nicosia. Cyprus remains a strategic location and is desired as a stepping stone: a means to an end but not an end in itself.
The latest examples have been the British bases that are still in use, and the 1974 Turkish invasion. The characteristic of Cyprus as an island of connection has made Nicosia, the only landlocked city, its capital. This was clearly a stratetic decision to give natural protection to a nation that is desired for its exposure. As a result, the Cypriot nation has remained within the paradox of insularity and its urge to interfere.
When an entity is under threat, it tends to condense. This tendency is evident as the body that the Cypriot community relies on is the church. The Orthodox Church has maintained a strong presence within the country. Under every conquest, the Cypriot community has condensed towards its defacto leader: the church. When one visits Nicosia, it immediately becomes clear that sacred space is of utmost importance within the city. Unlike most Orthodox monasteries, the Nicosian ones tend to be situated within the city. As a result, their cloisters act as insular areas within the city as well as public squares for the community. After the 1974 invasion, the city of Nicosia underwent a drastic expansion, as refugees resituated themselves in the capital. The expansion took form through the constant use of the polykatoikia: a modified version of Le Corbusier’s Maison Domino. As a result, the presence of the monastery as a community centre has been lost.
The project aims to reintroduce the monastery as an archetype that reconnects the Cypriot community and expose its identity as an independent nation. An archipelago of monasteries will reposition the strong religious presence of the community. For every church, a limit is defined by the use of a gallery. The gallery aims to demarcate the extension of the church’s ground, which will then become the monastery cloister and a public square. Since the gallery is surrounded by spaces designed specifically for the monastery, private property may never approach the monastery enough to benefit from land values. The ground reinforces the horizontality of each proposal, where the gallery never exceeds the height of three meters. The ground of each proposal is defined by paving that relates to the surrounding context as well as each specific church; exposing the paradox of an insular typology that nevertheless interferes with the city tissue.
Ultimately, the antagonistic nature of the monastery and the polykatoikia makes Monasteries a project of insular proposals that when seen as an archipelago, maintain an urban presence that connects the city as a whole.