Architects resign as harbour revamp months behind and contract not followed

A baffling combination of incompetence and lack of coordination and controls in the renovation and restoration project of the historic Kyrenia harbour has left the site in shambles as the works have halted with no date in sight for their completion.

The renovation of the Kyrenia harbour, which dates back to the Venetian times, began early last December. The 20 million Turkish lira (about €680 thousand) project comprised of the restoration, maintenance and repair of the building facades and the main street of the harbour, as well as the upgrading of the water supply, sewage, electricity and telephone infrastructure.

The Turkish Cypriot tourism body responsible for the project said at the time that the works were to be completed by the end of May this year, just in time for the start of the summer season. A series of setbacks including the omission of electricity infrastructure works, and delay in payment for the construction tender pushed the completion date to the end of June. However now, in mid-July, works have halted and there is no explanation of when and how the renovation will be finalised.

feature esra concrete has been poured by kyrenia castle in opposition to the architects' wishes (yeniduzen)

Concrete has been poured by Kyrenia castle in opposition to the architects’ wishes (Yeniduzen)

The latest setback in the project, which has been plagued by inaptitude from the very beginning, came when last week, contrary to the original plan, the main street of the harbour was paved with concrete. This caused an uproar among experts and the public, who argued that the concrete paving amounted to the destruction of one of the most important cultural assets in Cyprus.

The debate revealed that the stakeholders – such as the body responsible for historic sites – had not been consulted or involved in the project, and that the necessary approvals and permissions regarding the construction and the materials to be used had not been secured. Moreover, the original project drawn by Turkish Cypriot architects Ali Yapıcıoglu and Ali Tekinel had arbitrarily been tampered with during the implementation phase.

For the paving of the main street, “we had proposed a surface that looked like natural stone with local characteristics,” say the architects, who resigned and quit the works following the most recent setback.

“They asked us to change that to regular concrete. We said this would be inappropriate as concrete would be incompatible with the historic setting and surroundings of the harbour. We informed them in writing. They didn’t listen.”

Yapıcıoglu and Tekinel underline that when they submitted their project, they asked the tourism body responsible for the works that the necessary permission be obtained before going ahead with the renovation.

“These approvals were never obtained,” say the architects. “We insisted that all materials to be used in the project be seen and approved by all stakeholders. This was never done.”

The architects, who normally should have had the obligation and authority to control the implementation of the project, were also kept at bay from the beginning.

The uproar regarding the material used to pave the main street of the harbour led the authorities to take the decision to dismantle the concrete and to replace it with stone parquet.

“However, the contracting company is yet to accept the changes to the project,” says project coordinator Orhan Atasoy from the tourism body.

The tender for the renovation and restoration project was awarded to the Tosunoglu construction company, which is owned by Hasan Tosunoglu – a deputy from the junior partner Democrat Party (DP) of the Turkish Cypriot ruling coalition.

feature esra (fazilet ozdenefe)

The lack of transparency regarding what else in the original project has been arbitrarily changed and what exactly is the project to be implemented from now on is causing a lot of concern.

“It looks like the tourism season will be over, but the renovation will not be,” wrote journalist Cenk Mutluyakalı of one of the most beautiful marinas in the Mediterranean.

“With the resignation of the architects, the project remains unclaimed and its fate uncertain.”

Associate professor Ege Uluca Tumer of the Architecture Department and the Urban Research and Development Centre at the Eastern Mediterranean University agrees.

“This rehabilitation project does not have an owner, or an apparent owner anymore,” she says. “This makes it impossible to correctly discuss which scientific restoration principles or design criteria are being followed in the implementation of this project… This is certain to cause irreversible mistakes. We may see at the end of the day that the work being done is far from restoring the ancient marina in concordance with its history.”

Kyrenia harbour businesses on the brink of bankruptcy

The halting of the works has pushed the local small businesses in the Kyrenia harbour, home to dozens of restaurants, small hotels, cafes and bars, into desperation.

The small businesses owners, who have had to close their shops down since the end of last November, made a joint statement last week saying they were “on the brink of bankruptcy”.

“The project has not been completed on the promised date, and the works have now been halted,” said the business owners, who underlined they were already struggling even before the renovation due to the destructive effects of a two-year-long pandemic and a crippling Turkish economy. “This halt will lead to a very serious injustice and suffering.”

At the onset of the project, the Turkish Cypriot administration had announced a grant of a total of 2.8 million lira (around €97 thousand) in order to support the businesses. That grant had totally been paid out as of end of May and the administration has announced that there would be no extra compensation.

The business owners demanded compensation for each month their shop remained closed and threatened to take legal action.