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Developing New Design Strategies Essay

The ignorance of environmental values/impacts that are ranged from local to regional scales in the design and construction processes, burdens the inconveniences of the “contemporary” living milieus. Locality bears particular values in terms of natural, built and cultural context that constantly shape the local identity throughout the ages. Exclusion of this set of values in the development of the built environment, in conjunction with the consumer wise approaches of global trends, is ended up with an unsatisfactory living milieu. In this respect, the lack of environmental and socio-cultural aspects especially in the building design is the vital issue behind the questioning of existing understanding towards the context and its products. As it is faced with the challenging global circumstances related to the destructive effects of human activity on the nature, the need for the perspective of vernacular cultures and traditions, which are developed within local natural context, becomes essential.

Quick Outlook to the Residential Developments of Cyprus Cyprus vernacular kept its consistent evolution and reserved its distinctive identity in the Mediterranean basin in spite of political fluctuations in its history (Hill). The interaction between migration, political change and vernacular distress is a process, which influences the culture of the Island all through the history. The vernacular architecture of Cyprus has always been influenced by the immigrant communities in time. These communities, who moved to or conquered Cyprus in different periods, were entirely foreign and unfamiliar to this new context. Consequently, the prevailing vernacular architecture started to lose its peculiar values and distinct architectural characteristics according to this reciprocal interaction.

Although, the vernacular house is constantly developed by the considerable alterations of its mass in the form of limited additions and subtractions for responding the changing lifestyle and immigrants’ demands in time, the general characteristics of the rural house form is sustained (Numan and Dincyurek, I.112). Especially, after 1950’s, the sustainability of the vernacular architectural identity is only limited to the conscious or unconscious conservation of the existing vernacular settings instead of the continuation of the vernacular building activities. The impacts of “Annan Plan and its Referenda for Re-unification of the Island”, which was proposed and organized by General Secretary of UN in 2004, extremely influenced important features, including political, socio-cultural, and economical parameters, of the Island. Undoubtedly, the vernacular architecture of the Island implicitly affected from this important development (Dincyurek and Turker, 3385).

Although, the reunification was not realized because of its rejection in the referenda by the majority in the Southern (Greek) region, the encouraging (opportunistic) atmosphere of this reunification and optimistic projection for the common future are kept before and after the referenda. This positive atmosphere accelerated the growth of the construction activities especially in the Northern (Turkish) region in terms of summer houses or second houses for the local people and foreign investors. After “Annan Plan”, the sudden increase in the housing developments particularly in Northern part is noticeable. Despite of this boom in construction activity, the format of this development cannot be considered as the improvement in the field because of the repetition of the ready-made design schemes, which are not related with the contextual realities.

Besides the other reasons, the search for economically cheaper global trends in architecture (Turker and Pulhan), which can bring the most of the benefits for the recently established construction firms, can be stated as amongst the reasons to the construction activities, which are deviating from the quality and characteristics of the vernacular architecture. In brief, the recent housing developments have no relation at all with the vernacular architecture of Cyprus. The Search in Understanding the Association between Cyprus Vernacular and Current Architectural Developments Many scholars stated the different associations between vernacular building traditions and current architectural developments (Asquith and Vellinga; Oliver; Warren, Worthington and Taylor). Rapoport attracts the attention of the researchers to four main points on the issue: mainly, the ignorance of the vernacular context; the acceptance of vernacular but no attempt for getting useful lessons; the copy of the vernacular settings; and the use to get lessons and applied to the new design (55).

According to our investigations, similar series of attitudes can be observed in the interpretation of vernacular architecture of Cyprus. These are; • To ignore the presence of vernacular totally • To imitate the whole form of vernacular • To establish an association with the vernacular • To interpret and to get valuable lessons from the vernacular building heritage. In general, the vernacular architecture is a course that is generated by local values and needs, environmental necessities and availabilities, and continuously changing impacts. It is an evolving process which is shaped by trial and errors. It is also influenced by the local and regional constraints. This process does not deny the accumulation of the building tradition of the past. Furthermore, it may adapt itself to the changing parameters of the context. The conscious and unconscious responses are quite influential on this kind of evolution. There is no place for direct interference to this process.

These general characteristics of vernacular architecture can be observed in Cyprus vernacular as well until 1950’s. The process of Cyprus vernacular architecture suddenly stopped by the rapid introduction of the new “modern lifestyle” and its requirements to the Island, especially in the second quarter of the 20th century (qtd. in Schaar, et al.). The vernacular building tradition could not adjust itself to these significant changes in the way of life and building activities. After this interference to the vernacular building process, different approaches and attitudes can be noticed in the built environment of Cyprus, which are mentioned in the above lines. a. To ignore the presence of vernacular totally The penetration of almost similar houses, which are the repetitive products of the modern trends, into the vernacular environments is extensively developed in the Island. The realm of high-style or grandiose architecture and its necessities are familiarized in both urban and rural areas of Cyprus (Figure 1a).

In some examples, the harmonization of the stylistic understanding of modern architecture and the local needs is developed (Figure 1b). On one hand, these limited examples are providing correct answers to the response of the contextual needs by considering modern lifestyle and technological advancement. On the other hand, the majority of the recently built architectural examples exhibits the repetition of the unsatisfactory and insufficient architectural, structural and constructional solutions, which do not correspond with the realities of modern lifestyle, new building materials, techniques and technologies (Figure 1c).

b. To imitate the whole form of vernacular In the new building design, the approach of copying or imitating the whole form of vernacular houses is rarely encountered in Cyprus. However particularly in the rural areas of Cyprus, only a negligible number of examples, which are totally copied or imitated from vernacular house by the traditional builders has seen. The rarity in this kind of examples is due to the adaptation of the new modern lifestyles by the natives and also the formal unfamiliarity of the immigrants of the Island. On the other hand, the exceptional examples of the imitation of existing forms cannot verify the efficiently continuation of the vernacular building tradition.

a. Grandiose attitude of domestic architecture

b. Synthesis of modernist lines with local realms

c. Unfamiliar approach to the context

Figure 1. Different design attempts in modern residential architecture of Cyprus c. To establish an association with the vernacular The design attitude of conscious or unconscious establishment of association with the vernacular in the new design is extensively practiced in the recent building activities of the Island. However, it is not an attempt to completely copy the existing form. Without understanding the vernacular building tradition, the examples of this approach show signs of either too romantic or superficial attempt of an architect. Instead of identifying all aspects, which generate the vernacular building tradition, only few design parameters, or considerations, or architectural elements of vernacular building are particularly emphasized in this approach. In general, the architectural elements or spatial formations are repetitively used in the recent housing developments without considering their genuine reasons and usages in the vernacular building tradition.

According to the varying emphasis of establishing an association with the vernacular, different concepts and attempts are noticed. c.1. Making association with the vernacular through the senses In some examples, the design is mainly based on the reference to the memories of the past spatial experiences. In other examples, it is also possible to establish an association with vernacular either by emphasizing the sense of place/building or by the repeating of the shared images of vernacular in the new design. One of the examples is extremely remarkable. The architect (who he is also the owner) achieved an association with the vernacular in his new house by recalling the past experiences based on vernacular forms, shapes, and space. This example is not indicating a particular house type of Cyprus vernacular.

With a romantic/passionate approach, the formations of space are based on the possible resemblances of his past spatial experiences, whereas he is forced to leave his own house in his childhood because of the bi-communal conflicts. However, the reconstruction of a house form, which is existing in the memories, in another place actually does not meet the realms of new context but only fulfilling the sense of identity and belonging. Instead of using earth as available local building material, and adobe as locally accepted construction system, the architect preferred to use stone as material and bearing wall as structural system for achieving the rebirth of his dreams in an existing vernacular house.

Therefore, the aim for “the sense of belonging” is experienced. (Figure 2) c.2. Making association with the vernacular through the building materials and construction techniques Besides, the formal, visual and textural peculiarities of the traditional building material and construction techniques, which help to constitute a vernacular image in the new projects, they are still preferred in some of recently built houses because of their environmental, especially climatic performances. The stone wall construction, where the local material is available, is widely used with the purpose of achieving micro climate in the interior spaces.

Figure 2. The house example which was developed based on recalls of past spatial experiences To create an accentuation in the similar pattern is another reason for the usage of traditional building material and methods in the recently developed areas (Figure 3). Stone as a construction material is selected and applied especially in some parts of the typical reinforced concrete frame buildings. Sometimes, it is possible to observe the re-use of old building materials, or existing structural/architectural members in the new constructions. This harmful attitude of professionals accelerates the destruction of vernacular houses and settings in sake of gaining unethical profits.

Figure 3. Traditional materials were used in this example to make accentuation in the context c.3. Making association with the vernacular through the use of building elements The building elements, which form the essential components of vernacular architecture, are commonly used in the new buildings. The formation of significant building elements of vernacular such as arch, arcade, inner or outer hall, is realized in the recent building developments by using either traditional or contemporary building materials and its techniques. However, in these examples, where they convey particular building elements of the vernacular form, it is possible to notice the repetition of common mistakes in terms of environmental, architectural, structural or functional aspects. • Position and orientation Position and orientation decisions of the house and its components, are important design concerns in the vernacular architecture of Cyprus.


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