The island of Aphrodite (the goddess of love), also known as Cyprus, is the third-largest and third-most populous island in the Mediterranean with an estimated size of 9,251 km2 (3,572 sq mi), of which 5,896 km2 (2,276 sq mi) is under the sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus and 3,355 km2 (1,295 sq mi) is under the administration of the de facto Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Because of its strategic location between Europe, Asia, and Africa, the island has been a political target for other big nations. Cyprus is home to Europe’s last divided city, Nicosia, with the UN buffer zone (green line) dividing it from the entire island into two, respectively, north and south Cyprus. Stunning painted churches in Troodos, Choirokoitia (or Khirokitia), and the impressive Paphos remains are three of Cyprus’ three UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The last one stands out as a special instance because Paphos as a whole is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A more contemporary fusion of styles is slowly succeeding in replacing the island’s traditional Mediterranean architectural appearance over time. A variety of events that the island experienced had a big impact on these transformations.

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City of Kyrenia_http://octagoncyprus.com/

Socio-cultural Context

Cyprus has a vibrant architectural history that has been kept alive over the years, from the BC era to the present. The nation boasts a plethora of architectural styles that depict various historical periods, such as ancient architecture (Greeks, Phoenicians, Romans, and Byzantines): bathhouses, palaces, temples, basilicas, gymnasia, necropolis, etc.

Medieval architecture (Crusaders, Lusignans, Venetians): churches, cathedrals, chapels, magnificent rings of defense walls

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Arabahmet quarter, Lefkoşa, Northern Cyprus_http://www.heybrian.com/travels/cyprus/northern_cyprus.php
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Bellapais Abbey_https://vr4holiday.com/estate_property/360-vr-bellapais-abbey-kyrenia-waking-virtual-tour-north-cyprus-5k-hd-4k-virtual-reality-travel/

Islamic architecture (Ottoman): Turkish mosques, bath houses, caravanserais, and covered bazaars.

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Büyük Han Nicosia_https://www.flickr.com/photos/ykfung/35247628706

Colonial period architecture (British): churches, government offices, courts of law, army barracks, civil servants’ villas, bridges, and other public buildings. They took inspiration from the classic Greek style, which was adapted to their neoclassical designs.

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Colonial neo-Cypriot style_https://dom.com.cy/en/live/blog/colonial-architecture-of-cyprus/
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Pierides Museum_https://www.myguidecyprus.com/things-to-do/pierides-museum—bank-of-cyprus-cultural-centre

Modern architecture: Almost right away after Cypriot independence in 1960, the people of Cyprus took issues into their own hands and refurbished municipal halls, enterprises, financial institutions, and lodging facilities to conform to contemporary architectural norms.

Cyprus has historic towns, which is one feature that has to be highlighted. Small towns with lovely, hospitable homes lay just behind the everyday rise of new metropolis projects composed of towering buildings. 

Except for three structures—the Anglican Cathedral of St. Paul’s, St. George-in-the-Forest, and the Troodos Mountains, the British governor’s summer residence in Troodos—the buildings that were left behind, unlike those in other British colonies, blended a variety of architectural features, including contemporary European styles and local touches.

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St Pauls Anglican Cathedral in Nicosia_https://cyprus-mail.com/2015/06/13/life-on-a-higher-plane/
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St. George-in-the-Forest_https://allaboutlimassol.com/en/the-chur 1
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The British governor’s summer residence_https://www.reporter.com.cy/politics/article/24622/

A scientist from Cyprus, Costas Georgiou, said that 700 colonial structures still stand on the island in his book “The Architecture of Cypriots during British Rule.” Local colonial architecture can be broadly divided into three types: “classic colonial architecture,” “colonial neo-Cypriot style,” and typically British structures with no local influences (this type was the least popular in Cyprus). Although there were undoubtedly historical and cultural similarities between the two halves of the island before the Turkish military invasion that ultimately divided it, there may not always be agreement on many issues. The island’s southern side is controlled by the Greek government, while the northern side is controlled by the Turkish government. Every part of the island represented the social and cultural aspects of the nation it belonged to.

Demographic & Political Aspect

The primary reason why several civilizations have conquered Cyprus in the past is because of its favorable position. Historians sketched up a civilization history that depicts many eras that have touched the island. The Greek Periods, Classical Period, Hellenistic Period, Roman Period, Byzantine Period, Frankish Period, Venetian Period, Ottoman Empire, British Rule (pre-and post-World War II), Cyprus Independence, Turkish military invasion, island division (Northern-Southern Cyprus), economic collapse, redevelopment, etc. are the periods that come next in chronological order. 

Each of these periods is made up of a group of people that immigrated to Cyprus from a particular region and established there, bringing with them their unique knowledge of handicrafts, construction methods, etc. The Turkish military invasion in 1974 AD still prompts the islanders’ hearts to plummet, despite the passage of time. As the saying goes, there are three versions of every story, and in this context, there’s the southerners’ version, the northerner’s version, and the truth.

Embracing Modernity

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Vasa_https://in-cyprus.philenews.com/villages-of-cyprus-that-preserve-their-traditional-architecture/

One of the great tourist attractions on the island is also the folkloric Cypriot architecture. These charming traditional villages stand out for their narrow lanes, brightly colored yards, old stone buildings, lovely old doors and windows, impressive wood carvings, traditional limestone architecture, paved streets, small nature trails, and old terracotta-roofed homes, medievalist streets, and public spaces. Nicosia continues to be the center of Cyprus despite its historical challenges. The continuous attempts to revitalize the ancient city provide evidence of this.

Nowadays, the educational institutions of Cyprus continue the traditions of Cyprus town-planning. In modern villas and urban mansions in Cyprus, some tendencies are quite close to traditional Cypriot architecture. Architects and designers use new materials and technologies while preserving the traditional Mediterranean style, which is conditioned by climate conditions. The traditions of Cypriot town planning are still carried on by the educational institutions in Cyprus today. There are architectural styles that are eerily similar to traditional Cypriot architecture in contemporary villas and city houses in Cyprus. The classic Mediterranean style, which is influenced by climatic factors, is preserved while using new materials and technology by architects and designers.

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The Oval Limassol_https://in-cyprus.philenews.com/list-of-tallest-buildings-and-structures-in-cyprus/
Limasol city_https://dom.com.cy/en/live/blog/tourist-attraction-of-limassol-from-infrastructure-to-nature/

References

George Vidiakin (2021). Venetian Nicosia, the ideal Renaissance city. [online]. Available at: https://dom.com.cy/en/live/blog/venice-s-nicosia-the-perfect-renaissance-city/ [Accessed date: 20/06/2022].

The Church of St. George of the Forest (2020). Allaboutlimassol.com. [online]. Available at: https://allaboutlimassol.com/en/the-church-of-st-george-of-the-forest [Accessed date: 20/06/2022]. 

History of Cyprus architecture. From antiquity to present days. Part 2. [online].Available at: https://harakis.com/history-of-cyprus-architecture-from-antiquity-to-present-days-2/ [Accessed date: 20/06/2022].

History of Cyprus – Our historical past …resulting in our present nationality. [online]. Available at: https://www.cyprusalive.com/en/cyprus-history.

George Vidiakin (2021). Colonial Architecture in Cyprus. [online]. Available at: https://dom.com.cy/en/live/blog/colonial-architecture-of-cyprus/ .[Accessed date: 20/06/2022].

(2019). Just Fun Facts | Fun and interesting site. [online]. Available at: https://justfunfacts.com/interesting-facts-about-nicosia/. [Accessed date: 25/06/2022].

JOHNNY. One Step 4Ward [online]. Available at: https://onestep4ward.com/3-unesco-world-heritage-sites-cyprus

Editorial Staff. The Fact File. [online]. (Last updated: April 19th, 2022). Available at: https://thefactfile.org/interesting-facts-cyprus/  [Accessed date: 25/06/2022].

Author

Nadjath is an architecture graduate, traveler, and part-time freelance writer. She believes that the built and unbuilt environments are more than just about form and function. In a fast-growing culture where people are reading less and less, she is enthusiastic about transmitting the essence of architecture via words.

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