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Dreams of a Varosha reborn

Project leader Vasia Markides

By Nathan Morley

IN THE midst of acres of Varosha’s abandoned hotels, holiday apartments and houses a new initiative to regenerate the resort into a thriving cultural, economic and environmental hub has been launched.

Over one-hundred participants gathered yesterday for the start of the Famagusta Ecocity Project in Derynia – a location from where the full scope of the calamity in Varosha is clearly visible.

The project, set up by a group of private citizens and academics are discussing large-scale modern planning, functional building and site development for the once thriving resort.

A studio drafting architectural design proposals is being led by MIT professor and ecocity specialist Jan Wampler, with sixteen architecture graduate students from the University of South Florida.

“We are saying when the time comes, let’s re-construct Varosha in a smart way, in a way which is environmentally responsible,” says Vasia Markides who is spearheading the project.

“We realise that the way we are building here in Cyprus is not sustainable. Obviously we have water shortage problems, we have drought issues – we need to address all of these things in the construction and design of the buildings. We are not saying we are going to tear them all down, we are saying we need to evaluate the status of the buildings to see what needs to come down and what doesn’t”.

Markides added that all plans will eventually need to draw on a sound evidence base concerning the current state of infrastructure in the resort.

“We haven’t been given access to the city yet, we are hoping we can access it so the team can do a proper evaluation, but at this point everyone’s just going on guessing.”

The panels are focusing around nine objectives which aim to provide the foundation for addressing issues ranging from coastal and environmental engineering; urban planning for sustainable cities and architecture. Each panel consists of Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots – mostly from Famagusta – with expertise in their specific field.

“Long before we talk about buildings and streets we are thinking about people and the process of civil society engaging and deciding which is the road to follow to get to something they all want – which is the revival of their city, the rebirth if you like,” says Cyprus-based project director George Lordos. “As the Turkish mayor of Famagusta said, the town is like a bird with one wing – and a bird with one wind cannot fly.”

“I hope they can build on it, it’s a novel idea,” Former Presidential Commissioner George Iacovou told the Cyprus Mail. “It brings a new dimension to the future of the resort, which is attractive to both communities.”

“The buildings being forty years out of repair, probably a lot of them cannot be used, repaired or maintained, therefore the matter is urgent,” Iacovou added.

With Varosha having suffered a disaster so enormous, members of the ecocity project insist that visionary rethinking is required and the resort could grow and renew itself into a reunited ecocity. Their dream is that technological innovation coupled with green solutions will remake a new city for the 21st century.

Alexis Galanos, who is the Mayor-in-exile of Famagusta, told the Cyprus Mail that bi-communal ideas which can help build a prosperous future for re-united island are essential.

“We have to prepare the ground for the future return of the people of Famagusta, and the re-unified area of Famagusta that will be a starting point to the solution to the Cyprus problem,” Galanos said.

On paper for now, a renaissance in Varosha is taking shape, but participants in the project admit seeing such plans come to life could take an awfully long time and whilst Cyprus remains divided, the resort is likely to remain a cordoned-off ghost town.

The design studio will be located at the Famagusta Municipality Cultural Centre in Dherynia until Saturday and all events there will be open to the public.

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