by Jerry ElengicalNov 15, 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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.