I have always been in awe of individuals, who complete their Ph.D. with great perseverance, dedication and focused towards their academic quest. These doctoral individuals go through a lot of tribulations to achieve their goals in life. Their sacrifices to better lives of others with their knowledge are highly commendable. So, it is always a joy to interact with such knowledgeable individuals to get their insight about their expertise. Dr. Christina Pieri comes across as a very warm and down to earth person. She completed her Ph.D. from the Nottingham Trent University in the year 2018. Interestingly, she completed her B. Arch and M. Arch from Nottingham Trent University.

Boundary Identification in Walled Nicosia

As a Lecturer in Architecture, Dr. Christina Pieri has been teaching architecture students at the Neapolis University Pafos in Cyprus since 2021. As an architect, she has been working at eMotion Architects, Larnaca since June 2021. She has also worked as a Lecturer in Architecture at the University of Wolverhampton and Nottingham Trent University in UK. She has worked on noteworthy heritage management and regeneration projects, both as a research assistant for ArCHIAM – Centre for the Study of Architecture and Cultural Heritage of India, Arabia and the Maghreb. As an architect, she has worked for DL Design Studio, including the careful study and revitalization of listed buildings and sites in the UK.

Johnny D interacts with Dr. Christina Pieri at great length to unravel the significance of her doctoral thesis titled ‘Selective heritage management in divided cities: focusing on Nicosia’s walled city centre’.

Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot Flags facing each other across the boundary of Walled Nicosia

What was your childhood’s ambition? Did you always wanted to be an architect?

I cannot remember wanting to be anything other than an architect, so I would say that what I do now is what I always wanted to do. I must admit however, I did not really appreciate the complexity and significance of the profession, before I actually studied and practiced architecture. In fact, I remember regretting my decision during the first year of my studies, but I am glad I persevered as I cannot imagine how my life would be today, if I had not stayed in architecture.

Analysis of GC (South) Buffer Zone Boundary

You have an impressive repertoire with a Doctorate in Heritage Management / Architecture; Postgraduate Certificate in Research Methods; Master of Architecture; and a Bachelor of Architecture from Nottingham Trent University, UK. Briefly elucidate your academic quest.

I initially started this journey by studying Architecture (B. Arch and M. Arch) in the UK. During my postgraduate studies, I was encouraged to pursue a Ph.D., while being offered a visiting lecturer post. I must admit that a Ph.D. was never my intention, but my interest in the topic of heritage management, and in particular Cyprus’ heritage management led me to the decision to pursue this path. The fact that I am the daughter of Greek Cypriot refugees, who lost their homes in 1974 has also played a significant role in pursuing this Ph.D. topic, as I have always wanted to contribute to the heritage protection of my country.

From then onwards, I have always taken advantage of any opportunity to learn, hence the Postgraduate Certificates in Research Methods and Higher Education and Professional Practice. In addition to my academic quest and my lecturing post at Neapolis University Pafos, I am also a practicing architect and a Partner at eMotion Architects. Being able to combine academia with practice has proved immensely fulfilling and beneficial, as I am able to apply my practical and academic knowledge to both environments and at the same time support my students more effectively. I would therefore argue that my academic quest concentrates on continuously expanding my knowledge and understanding across my field of study, but also across various other fields; driven by a curiosity to explore and comprehend the complexities of the built environment around me.

Conceptual Representation: Study of Doors represents the gradual decline of the Historic Core

Elucidate briefly your Doctoral thesis‘Selective Heritage Management in Divided Cities: Focusing on Nicosia’s Walled City Centre’.

My Ph.D. thesis investigates the impact of the 1974 conflict and the subsequent division of Cyprus on the heritage and heritage management of its Capital’s walled city center, which displays significant signs of decline, particularly closer to the buffer zone that divides the Greek Cypriot from the Turkish Cypriot part of the city. This was achieved through the creation of a context-specific conceptual framework that focused on theories linked to the topics of memory, power and authenticity; all reviewed under the umbrella of conflict and division. This conceptual framework guided my case study data collection and analysis and provided a fundamental point of departure for understanding practical and theoretical considerations behind walled Nicosia’s heritage management on both sides of the divide.

At the moment, two separate governments exist on the island – the RoC – Republic of Cyprus and the TRNC – Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. This has resulted in the creation separate administrative bodies that manage heritage on each side; heritage that fundamentally belongs to both communities, but is managed separately and often prioritized or not, depending on the meanings and memories attached to it. In light of this outcome, a significant part of my contribution was my objectivity and the fact that I was able to study both sides of the divide. I was able to interview both Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot stakeholders, listen to their views about the future of the city and record their concerns regarding the protection of its heritage.

Derelict Residence directly next to the Premises of Norte Dame de Tyre in Arab Ahmet

My thesis unveils that there is a power imbalance between the two communities, both due to the lack of international recognition of the TRNC and also due to the subsequent lack of funding to protect heritage in the north. Furthermore, memories associated with the walled city have been influenced or distorted significantly by its ongoing division, while the negative memories of conflict are also causing its selective heritage management. Lastly, the issue of authenticity has also proven to be important, as multiple versions of what is considered to be truthful, or an authentic part of the city’s heritage continue to exist and also affect the way it is managed. My findings subsequently demonstrate that there are several intangible meanings attached to the ongoing division that have not been considered by the two Municipalities, when developing their master plan for the city. Understanding these can potentially contribute to a more informed heritage management approach on both sides of the Cypriot divide.

Diagram illustrating the North – South Interruption of walled Nicosia’s urban fabric due to the buffer zone

Please elaborate on the aims and objectives of your Doctoral thesis.

My first aim was to investigate the impact of conflict and division on walled Nicosia’s heritage, in order to address existing gaps in knowledge concerning the heritage and heritage management of the city. My second aim was to further knowledge on existing heritage management approaches on either side of Nicosia’s divide.

The above two aims were a result of my empirical observations during the final year of my Architecture studies, where my design thesis focused on the development of a proposal to bridge the Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot communities. That is when I realized that there is a significant gap in knowledge and information regarding walled Nicosia’s heritage protection. As a result, to achieve the above two aims, I had set the following four objectives:

Military Post at the Northern end of Asklipiou Street in Walled Nicosia South

1)To identify gaps and contributions concerning the heritage management of the city, by examining existing literature, as well as local and international approaches relevant to Nicosia.

2) To develop a context-specific conceptual framework relevant to the case study of Nicosia, through the identification of relevant themes and theoretical approaches around the topics of heritage and heritage management.

3) To apply the empirical data obtained from walled Nicosia in order to develop a comprehensive understanding of the impact of the Nicosia Master Plan, NGOs and bi-communal initiatives on the tangible and intangible heritage of the city on both sides of the divide.

4) To explore and expose new, alternative strategies for knowledge production and dissemination, by communicating the significance of the findings and methodology to the case study of Nicosia and to relevant international cases.

Diagrammatic Representation of the current responses to the buffer zone, both from a Public and a Development Perspective

As you can observe, the above objectives focused on the systematic study of the walled city of Nicosia at different levels and from different perspectives that involved both sides of the divide. It was important to me to contribute to both communities, leaving behind any bias. Furthermore, even though my objectives focused on addressing a gap in knowledge regarding walled Nicosia’s heritage and heritage management in the context of division, I also wanted to develop a body of work that informs and potentially benefits the management of heritage of similar, divided or contested environments.

Police Station built on the Venetian Walls preserving the bullet holes from the conflict

Looking back in time, ancient architecture was more eco-friendly, culturally rich and artistic in nature, and were designed uniquely to etch their prominence in historical context for Centuries. However, in modern architecture all the above-mentioned characteristics are missing as every city looks a replica of other cities with few exceptions – Your views.

I would not say that every city looks like a replica of other cities, but I do have to acknowledge the immense impact of the 18th Century industrial revolution and its resulting technological developments. These have contributed to the rapid advancement of resources available to us globally something that was reflected in the work of many architects and continue to do so today. This technological availability and the ease of access to resources paralleled by the growing impact of the image media have contributed, up to a level, to what you are describing above. This is why I insist on the importance of context so much.

Besides my interest in heritage protection, I guess I was also impacted by critical regionalism, which developed as a response to the perceived homogenizing effects of globalization on architecture. It should be acknowledged that, despite the ‘damage’ that might have been caused, the 20th Century, however, has surfaced the significance of heritage, heritage conservation and the role of vernacular architecture, with the development of relevant bodies that actually focus on the safeguarding of all of the above.

Figure Illustrating the Identified Fragments of the Walled City of Nicosia

Please state the most priceless lesson you learnt from Dr. Ana Souto?

I have known Ana since 2007, when I first went to study architecture. She has always been kind and I have always felt that she trusted me. This trust and confidence she had shown in me throughout my academic and professional careers has taught me to do the same with my students. I put my trust in them and I make sure that they are fully aware that I do. I can see that this boosts their confidence and that they are less likely to doubt their abilities as students and later, as practicing architects.

Panoramic Study of the Walled City of Nicosia

What are the significant conflicts and divisions on walled Nicosia’s Heritage and Heritage Management? Please elucidate briefly.

Primarily, the ongoing political division shapes diverse perspectives on heritage between the two communities, complicating efforts for cohesive management. This issue is also closely linked to the subject of memory and how people perceive, remember, or commemorate the 1974 conflict and the subsequent division of the island. In fact, as my research demonstrates, people remember in diverse ways across the divide, thus choosing what heritage to protect becomes an intricate matter. Furthermore, ownership disputes over properties within the walled city further exacerbate tensions, fueled by historical displacements and demographic changes.

Cultural identity clashes emerge, reflecting differing interpretations of the city’s multicultural heritage, while economic concerns often clash with heritage protection goals, challenging the balance between development and sustainable heritage management. Additionally, addressing infrastructure needs and accessibility issues for all stakeholders remains crucial, as concerns over funding and implementation persist across the divide. Lastly, but also importantly, tourism management requires careful navigation to ensure benefits for both communities and visitors without compromising the authenticity or memory of heritage sites. The above issues are to a large extent linked to the division of the city, but I strongly believe that they can also provide opportunities for collaboration between the two sides.

Old Residence located in the north part of Asklipiou Street

“Heritage, both tangible and intangible, carries a multiplicity of meanings and values that differ depending on the region, the neighbourhood, the home and most importantly, the individual.” – Howard 2003. Please elucidate.

Howard’s quote encapsulates the complex and diverse nature of heritage, by emphasizing that its significance is not homogenous, but rather varies depending on various factors. At this point, I would like to stress the words tangible and intangible. Tangible can refer to physical artifacts and sites, while intangible encompasses traditions, and cultural practices passed down through generations. These elements embody a ‘multiplicity of meanings and values’ that are not fixed, but are instead shaped by context.

I chose to include this quote in my thesis, because it demonstrates the multilayered character of heritage and how it can differ based on factors such as the region, neighborhood or even individual perspective. Importantly, the quote emphasizes the subjective nature of heritage, highlighting that its value is ultimately determined by individual experiences, memories and personal connections. This recognition underscores the need for inclusive approaches to heritage management that respect and incorporate diverse perspectives, ensuring that heritage preservation efforts resonate with the communities they seek to serve, particularly in the context of conflict or division.

Map illustrating Façade Regeneration between the North and South parts of Walled Nicosia

What are the Heritage Management complexities your study found could be simplified for better management in conserving walled Nicosia’s Heritage?

The dual management of the city’s heritage is the main thorn wounding its heritage at the moment. Given the current political situation, this duality is, of course, inevitable. However, based on what I have learned from my research the potential of a third party (e.g. the EU or the UN) mediating to bring the two communities together for bi-communal projects could help simplify the process. This is something already happening to an extent, but my interviews with Nicosia Master Plan representatives in the North part of Cyprus have raised issues of collaboration and funding. This collaboration needs to be more consistent and regardless of the complexities of the current political situation, more neutral for the benefit of the community and its heritage.

I do understand and acknowledge that my proposition is not something the two Municipalities do not already know, and I am fully aware that a bi-communal collaboration is not something that can just happen from one day to the other, but unless the dual administration and financial imbalance between the two sides is addressed, heritage management is less likely to be simplified and sustainable in the long term. This is something organizations such as UNESCO are also trying to address by acknowledging the crucial importance of heritage to societies and its great potential to contribute to social, economic and even environmental goals.

Site Investigations – Views through Walled Nicosia’s Buffer Zone

“The common causes of urban decline can be associated with economic and social activity, as well as demographic and physical modifications.” – Lupton and Power, 2004. Elucidate your perspectives about this apt observation by Lupton and Power.

Lupton and Power’s observation underscores the multifaceted nature of urban decline, attributing it to economic shifts, social challenges, demographic changes and physical transformations within cities. The physical transformation of walled Nicosia, due to the existence is the UN-controlled buffer zone, is a significant cause of decline in this case. Addressing urban decline effectively, particularly in divided cities such as the one of Nicosia, requires a holistic approach that tackles the above issues. In fact, I believe that effective heritage management can strategically contribute to the control of these changes; encouraging historic built environments to continue evolving and adapting sustainably in the long term.

Drawing illustrating the Buffer Zone of Walled Nicosia, along with adjacent Building Blocks

Said’s Orientalism is a prominent example of this work, as he discusses, and often criticizes, the bias of the West in creating a stereotyped image about the East through its depiction of the Orient as an “alien”, “irrational”, “different” ‘other’ – Said, 1978. Enlighten our global readers about Said’s Orientalism.

Edward Said’s discussions about intercultural relations and concepts on otherness have helped shape some of the theoretical foundations of my Ph.D. thesis. Said’s Orientalism is a seminal work in postcolonial studies that critically examines the Western construction of the ‘Orient’ or the East. Said argues that Western scholars, writers and artists have historically depicted the Orient as a mysterious, exotic and as an – inferior -‘other’ to the rational and superior West. By exposing the biases and power dynamics inherent in Orientalist representations, he challenges Western hegemony and calls for a more nuanced understanding of Eastern cultures, histories and identities. Said’s work has significantly contributed to my explorations of the ‘other’ and ‘otherness’ in the context of conflict and division, and in my attempts to remove any bias about the Turkish Cypriot community, which for the most of my life represented the opposing ‘other’.

Analysis of TC (North) Buffer Zone Boundary

Which significant aspects of the global platform ‘zerobeyond – the new frontier!’ did you liked the most, and why?

I really like the fact that ‘zerobeyond – the new frontier!’ approaches professionals from around the globe to talk about their expertise. I see this platform as a common ground that gives our community a voice to showcase our work, academic interests and of course to explore the work of other colleagues that we might otherwise not have been aware of. What you are doing here is admirable and a positive contribution to the fields of architecture, interiors and engineering.

Illustration of Protest Against the Existence of Boundaries in Walled Nicosia north

What are the significant architectural objectives you teach your students as an architecture Lecturer at Neapolis Univeristy Pafos?

I always insist on the importance of context (social, cultural, geographical and so forth). Architects have a social responsibility not only towards their clients, but also towards society and future generations. When designed well (and this could mean many things), a building can have a positive impact on people’s lives and this is something we must always keep in mind.

How would you describe Dr. Christina Pieri as a professional and a person?

I would say that Christina is a talkative person, full of curiosity and with a distinct sense of humor, who appreciates the value and significance of learning and constantly growing both as an individual and as a professional. She is persistent (i.e. stubborn) and likes to find ways to make the most of her academic and professional journeys, while at the same time thinking ahead and looking for new opportunities to grow.

The Buffer Zone Boundary demonstrates the National Greek Colours and Religious Symbolism

Awards and honours, if any.

In conferences (UK and international):

Top 10 Early-Stage Researcher Papers (2015 REHAN Conference by the Green Lines Institute for Sustainable Development, Porto);

Best Presentation Award (CADBE Research Conference, June 2015, Nottingham);

Best Poster Award (CADBE Research Conference, June 2014, Nottingham);

Top of cohort student award for my M. Arch studies (2012);

RIBA President’s Medals Dissertation Nomination (2012);

Executive Committee Member of The RIBA East Midlands Nottingham and Derby; and Society of Architects (NDSA) (2012)

Walking Route Marker found around South Walled Nicosia

Image Courtesy: Dr. Christina Pieri

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *