Zaha Hadid Architects invites unique public connections with an urban park in Nicosia

In the capital of Cyprus, the international firm has transformed a section of an ancient dry moat overlooking Venetian fortifications into a multi-level public plaza.

by Zohra KhanPublished on : Dec 30, 2021

In the centre of Nicosia – the divided capital of Cyprus – Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) has constructed an urban plaza featuring public gardens, palm-lined promenades, and a large underground car parking space. Known as Eleftheira Square, the multi-level city spot is said to be the largest civic plaza in Nicosia, conceived with the intent to reconnect divided communities. Nicosia is split up by a UN-controlled buffer zone that spans the whole of Cyprus. The Green line separates the Greek and Turkish neighbourhoods while gigantic 16th century Venetian fortifications divide the old city from its modern districts. Eleftheira Square is a primal undertaking of a much larger urban plan which ZHA describes as a potential catalyst for the reunification of the capital.

  • An aerial view of the Eleftheira Square in the old city of Nicosia designed by Zaha Hadid Architects | Eleftheira Square | Zaha Hadid Architects | STIRworld
    An aerial view of the Eleftheira Square in the old city of Nicosia designed by Zaha Hadid Architects Image: Laurian Ghinitoiu
  • The square is composed of gardens, promenades, water features, and a car park | Eleftheira Square | Zaha Hadid Architects | STIRworld
    The square is composed of gardens, promenades, water features, and a car park Image: Laurian Ghinitoiu
  • Palm-lined promenade | Eleftheira Square | Zaha Hadid Architects | STIRworld
    Palm-lined promenade Image: K. Arkatites

Built within a section of a previously inaccessible historic dry moat and surrounded by the defensive walls, the design "establishes these fortifications as an integral part of Nicosia’s identity while also opening the dry moat for public use". The square has been planned to host festivals and public gatherings while the car park would enable better pedestrian movement on the city’s streets. The idea as per ZHA is to transform Eleftheira Square into a green belt around the old city, wherein these public spaces could extend along the Venetian fortifications, thus offering much-needed connections.

  • Stairs descending from the concrete bridge | Eleftheira Square | Zaha Hadid Architects | STIRworld
    Stairs descending from the concrete bridge Image: Laurian Ghinitoiu
  • The base of the bridge is used in recreational activities | Eleftheira Square | Zaha Hadid Architects | STIRworld
    The base of the bridge is used in recreational activities Image: Laurian Ghinitoiu
  • The supporting columns morph into seating | Eleftheira Square | Zaha Hadid Architects | STIRworld
    The supporting columns morph into seating Image: Laurian Ghinitoiu
  • The supporting columns morphs into seating | Eleftheira Square | Zaha Hadid Architects | STIRworld
    A closer look at the structure of the column Image: Laurian Ghinitoiu

The landscape architecture reveals a massive concrete bridge inserted within the mote; its sculptural form contributes an immersive navigation through the different levels of the square. On the ground level, the supporting columns of the bridge morphs into fluid seating pockets and curving passages attracting local skaters and cyclists.

  • Master diagram: concept | Eleftheira Square | Zaha Hadid Architects | STIRworld
    Master diagram: concept Image: Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects
  • Green areas: concept | Eleftheira Square | Zaha Hadid Architects | STIRworld
    Green areas: concept Image: Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects
  • Pedestrian paths: concept | Eleftheira Square | Zaha Hadid Architects | STIRworld
    Pedestrian paths: concept Image: Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects

"Transformed into an urban park, the moat's fluid geometries have been created through the process of triangulating the irregular forms of the ancient fortifications to establish points of intensity that define seating, flower beds or water features within the new park," relays ZHA in the project’s statement.

Granite is used on the square’s paving to express 'a timeless solidity'. ZHA particularly kept the joints between the stone slabs open to "naturally balance groundwater levels and reduce erosion of the medieval walls’ foundation". The overall construction of the square, which also included development of two cafes, encompassed extensive archaeological excavations combined with closer repair and protection of the fortifications.

Seating at the square | Eleftheira Square | Zaha Hadid Architects | STIRworld
Seating at the square Image: Laurian Ghinitoiu

Architects at ZHA describe the space as one that weaves together Nicosia’s rich history with an unwavering optimism for the future. “Bridging the Venetian wall and moat, the square becomes an important gateway to the old city," shares the international firm founded by architecture’s grande dame Zaha Hadid.

Rooted in the principles of parametric architecture, previous projects by the firm include an art centre in China inspired by the flying patterns of migratory birds; the starfish shaped Beijing Daxing International Airport; and a collaboration with Hyperloop to rethink the future of rapid transit.

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