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The site for the Cyprus Visiting School 2013 was the village of Athienou in the Larnaca District, located midway between the cities of Nicosia and Larnaca. Being one the four villages in Cyprus that lies within the UN Buffer Zone, namely at Sector Four (responsibility of the Slovakian and Hungarian contingent with 202 Soldiers), Athienou has a population of 5,000 people with the entirety of its residential area situated within the Green Line that swells up to a width of 7.4 kilometres to encompass the village.

Cyprus AAVS 2013 Student Work Images

With approximately 2,500 hectares of the north part of the area lying within Turkish occupied territories the residential part of Athienou, forms a nucleus of 1,700 hectares that is separated from the border with Northern Cyprus by a narrow corridor of open land. Aside from an area designated as industrial land annexed to the village at the southwest and another area for keeping livestock at the southeast, this residential nucleus is surrounded by open arable land where new building construction is not permitted. Landlocked by the restricting presence of the surrounding Green Line, as well as by governmental land policies that are designating specific land uses, the area is currently lacking any form of expansion strategies that would form blueprints for its future growth. In response to this condition, the scope of the 2013 Cyprus Visiting School brief was to create proposals operating on two main levels.

Firstly, to create ‘intermediary’ designs that formed strategic interventions in the existing area, the role of which was to essentially prepare the ground for the forthcoming masterplan strategies. The aim therefore was to generate growth scenarios on a landlocked, boundary-controlled landscape that would respond to a future situation where the removal of the Buffer Zone restrictions and ‘free’ expansion of the residential and industrial districts and farmland were again possible in Athienou. Direction of growth was a critical issue as land use within the Buffer zone remains restricted. Namely these included vertical growth, high rise or below ground, horizontal elevated or underground connections between Greek controlled areas, airways linking common-interest areas: agricultural lands or urban areas found in T/C areas, G/C areas, UN controlled areas or even further UK controlled areas.

Secondly, moving forward in time functioning masterplans of the area were designed that were based on scenarios of removal of the Buffer Zone restrictions. The proposals were based on the assumption that had Cyprus not been split, Athienou would be a growing urban centre midway between Nicosia to Larnaca and Ayia Napa, a gateway to the southern coasts towards the Mesaoria Valley and an important agricultural centre. The main issues that were questioned related to ways that the masterplan proposals could mediate between the urban districts of Nicosia at the west and Larnaca at the east, potentially forming a ‘Garden city’ type of development or taking an altogether different role relating to infrastructure or energy production.

Overall, the idea of the 2013 Visiting School was to respond to a substantial growth of Athienou within its restricting boundaries today, in a way that after a possible political solution that specific growth could be reassembled and accommodated in the newly incorporated areas that would be accessible to Athienou. Avoiding to pretend that the divisions were not there, the aim was to create a growth scenario that would either answer to the main problem of expansion or bring forth the dystopian urban constructs that can arise from similar restrictive situations.

The use of associative digital tools allowed us to generate proposals that had a parameter-dependent underlying logic, where the changing of one of the inputs of the masterplan setting-out earlier in time had a knock on effect on the form of its expansion in the future. This contingency-dependent form of digital design enabled us to create adaptable, context-sensitive proposals that could rapidly adjust to the island’s diverse and volatile political and cultural landscape.

image: Cyprus Visiting School 2013 proposals for the village of Athienou situated within the UN Buffer Zone. Team: Christos Antonopoulos, Chris Lo, George Voniatis, Angela Vanezi, Anastasia Charitou, Alexandra Virlan, Yanna Haddad, Joy Harb