Topographies of Memories: A New Poetics of Commemoration, my new book is set for publication in November 2017
This book explores new approaches towards developing memorial and heritage sites, moving beyond the critique of existing practices that have been the traditional focus of studies of commemoration. Offering understandings of the effects of conflict on memories of place, as manifested in everyday lives and official histories, it explores the formation of urban identities and constructed images of the city. Topographies of Memories suggests interdisciplinary approaches for creating commemorative sites with shared stakes. The first part of the book focuses on memory dynamics, the second on Nicosia, the divided capital of Cyprus, and the third on physical and material world interventions. Design practices and modes of engagement with places of memory are explored, making connections between theoretical explorations of memory and forgetting and practical strategies for designers and practitioners.
Trade and Exchange in Nicosia’s Common Realm, 2016 in Shared Spaces and their Dissolution: Practices of Coexistence in the Post-Ottoman Sphere, Bryant, Rebecca (ed.) Berghahn.
Book Review – The Radicals’ City: Urban Environment, Polarisation, Cohesion, 2016. Journal of Urban Design, 3(21).
The Nicosia Master Plan: Planning Across the Divide, 2015. In Governing Contested Issues in Divided Cities, Annika Björkdahl and Lisa Strömbom (eds.) Nordic Academic Press.
Urban Form and Memory Discourses in Contested Cities, 2014. Journal of Urban Design, 19(4).
A Shell of Memory: The Cyprus Conflict and Nicosia’s Walled City, 2012. Memory Studies, 5(4).
The Legacy of Ottoman Building in Nicosia: Hans as Spaces of Coexistence in Pre-conflict Cyprus, 2012. International Journal of Islamic Architecture,1(1).
Place-based Research Methodologies: Oral History, Visual Research, and Mapping, 2014. In Oral History in Cyprus, Holger, Briel (ed.) University of Nicosia Press.
“The Home for Cooperation Opens in Nicosia’s Buffer Zone” 2011. Online publication for the Conflict in Cities and the Contested State Research Programme, University of Cambridge.
Excerpt from an article for Memory Studies (Volume 5, No. 4, 2012)
Nicosia’s walled city exhibits the contradiction of the hidden and the manifest - of the imperfect containment of the shell. Whatever is held inside has the potential to leak out. Memories ebb and flow, they retreat only to return in another form. Memories and meanings related to place can lie dormant for quite some time until a particularly urgent need of the present reawakens them. Bachelard discusses the nature of the creature that dwells inside of the shell, where ‘the obvious dynamism of these extravagant creatures lies in the fact that they come alive in the dialectics of what is hidden and what is manifest. A creature that hides and ‘withdraws into its shell,’ is preparing a ‘way out.’ Thus the dynamics of remembering and forgetting also find a home in the shell, where what is forgotten remains motionless for the moment, yet always with the potential for an explosion of renewed movement - a movement that releases dormant memories out of the shell, back to those who dwell outside of the old city.
Looking at a shell, it is easy to abstract its form - it is a simple spiral, or cone, and we can imagine hundreds of these abstractions lining countless shores. Yet, upon closer study, the complexity of the shell is revealed; the hundreds of lines and ridges, it’s continual folding in upon itself. While the outside may be a rough, even jagged mass, its interior is smooth ‘so soft, so pearly, in its intimacy.’ A shell presents us with another contradiction - it is both simple and complex at the same time. The walled city, when reduced to the abstracted graphic of the encircling Venetian walls, is a simple symbol - one that is easily invested with outside meanings. At the same time, anyone entering its narrow and twisting streets would argue for the complexity of the urban fabric that it contains. The lived density of these streets is contained within the seemingly simple pure geometry of the shell. Likewise memories connected to the city can be abstracted, using the logo of the walls to refer to collective meanings. Yet the places within this shell are heavily loaded with contested memories - memories that are constantly being renegotiated on the inside. In the shell, the notions of emptiness and fullness are intertwined and inseparable because it is the very emptiness of the shell that implies an invitation to contain - to be filled with meaning. So regardless of whether we take the void or the solid as our starting point, we arrive at the end result of fullness. ‘But an empty shell, like an empty nest, invites day-dreams of refuge.’
The Legacy of Ottoman Building in Nicoisa: Hans as Spaces of Coexistence in Pre-conflict Cyprus
International Journal of Islamic Architecture, Volume 1, No. 1, 2012
Abstract: The urban form of Nicosia has been heavily influenced by the conflict in Cyprus and the separation of the Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot communities since the late 1950s. The historic city centre, encircled within the sixteenth-century Venetian walls, is defined by an absence, the Buffer Zone, an inaccessible strip that divides it down the middle. This was once the city’s main market area, its course laid out in the medieval period. Three centuries of Ottoman rule left an imprint on this urban fabric and resulted in the building of a large number of hans along these marketplace streets. As the Cyprus conflict remains unresolved, so do the divergent narratives, differing on each side of the border, regarding how this part of the city was lived in and used in the years prior to division. The nature of these streets, in terms of the degree of coexistence or separation that existed between the communities sharing them, is disputed. This article will look at material evidence and memories related to several of Nicosia’s hans in order to provide an alternative narrative; looking to the material reality of these buildings, and the memories connected to them, to discuss the nature of coexistence in pre-conflict Cyprus in the 1940s and 1950s.
Haci Dimitri Han: Below is a diagrammatic interpretation of the configuration of the residents and the daily functions of life in the Haci Dimitri Han as represented in Hizber Hikmetağalar’s memoir Eski Lefkoşa’da Semtler ve Anılar (Old Nicosia’s Districts and Memories). As it was not possible to determine the exact size and location of the elements mentioned in Hikmetağa’s ‘monograph’ of this han, I have chosen to represent these elements in an abstract manner, incorporating descriptive portions of his text into the diagram.
Cities are central to ethno-national conflicts, where tailored myths and memories are used to lay claim to the rightful ownership of certain sites. In this context, spatial practices that harness memory become a critical part of a purposive reconstruction of the past, and memory discourses become a major constitutive facet of contested cities. This paper explores the relationship between current memory discourses and urban design and spatial practices in contested and divided cities, examining building projects and planning practices. The execution of official policies of erasure is also explored through the destruction of buildings and the continuing effect of transmitted memories on individuals’ use of the city. This paper aims to illustrate how several aspects of memory, which are of increased significance in conflict situations, affect the city as spaces are designed to project certain meanings, to reflect mythologies related to official historical narratives, and to embed certain images into the fabric of the city and into the imaginations of its residents.
Bicommunalism is rarely mentioned in discussions about divided cities. Nicosia, the divided capital of Cyprus, is unique in that it hosts a bicommunal urban planning team. Its roots reach back to 1979 when the then mayors, concurrently governing different sides of the city, initially collaborated to coordinate the municipal sewer system. They went on to create the Nicosia Master Plan (NMP), which has worked since 1981 to establish a unified urban strategy for the city.
This chapter explores the post-division planning of Nicosia under the NMP. This case highlights both the possibilities and challenges for public administration in addressing and resolving contested issues through urban planning. As such, it will also touch on issues of contested memories and meanings, which cropped up intermittently during the urban planning process and that remain controversial in terms of the use of the city today. This chapter focuses on the NMP’s role in refocusing attention on the seemingly forgotten historic centre of Nicosia’s walled city, and describes the disputes about which aspects of cultural heritage (and their associated histories and memories) should be emphasised and the competing demands on public space that arose at points in the urban planning process, and that remain controversial in terms of the life of the city today. It also examines the trajectory of the NMP as it developed from an initiative, founded by two visionary city mayors, into an established institution that has had to change its methods in order to meet the demands and requirements of working with international funding bodies. The NMP also had to adapt its strategies following the accession of the Republic of Cyprus to the EU in 2004 (which affected urban planning in the south of Nicosia), and the changing role of Turkey in the funding of urban projects in the north of Nicosia.