Ελβετία

Unconscious Architecture

Geographies of Cypriot state housing

Curators: Evi Tselika and Orestis Lambrou


Within European contemporary art the terrain of council/ community/ social housing has become a firm trend throughout the last twenty to thirty years. Mass Council housing in Cyprus is barely thirty years old. And it is presently an unchartered creative and artistic pathway to be explored. This local specific response towards communitarian spatial environments highlights a plethora of tensions. The understanding of displacement, the monumentality of both the built setting and the narratives of war demonstrate the local specificity and yet unifying characteristics of what social housing means in Europe.

The absence of civic dialogue in relation to the Cypriot state estates, better known locally as ‘refugee neighbourhoods’ become a good springboard in launching artistic experiments and reflection. The use of Modernist models of community housing that these estates demonstrate situate this creative enquiry into the wider understanding of European interpretations of mass/ social housing developments. The Cypriot state developed them hurriedly to fulfill the needs after 1974, thus even using ready made plans from the UK. This is presented through the architectural construction and through the creation of new communities; by not only making houses and blocks of flats but also by creating green spaces, shops, services, schools, churches, pathways and roads.

The current communities of these semi state and semi-private, built clusters present particular micro geographies and socio spatial narratives. The artists were invited to question, document, narrate and face these charged neighbourhoods. The project explores the notions of ‘how the built environment defines community’ and how ‘the community defines the built environment’. This exhibition and happenings question the public understanding of Cypriot state housing, how community shapes these environments, how planned urban developments become organic and how these can demonstrate the disputed notion of failure in relation to the Modernist legacy of European social housing.  

Evi Tselika /  Orestis Lambrou