CEC WEEKLY TIES – When architecture is abused

Dear colleagues, 

Cyprus, my home country, is the European country where inequality increased the most in the pandemic, with a loss rate of up to 22.4%. “There is considerable inequality in Cyprus in terms of income, wealth, employment, opportunities, and what I would call intergenerational gaps,” Leslie Manison, a former senior economist at the International Monetary Fund and ex-advisor in the Cyprus Ministry of Finance, told CNN Business

It did not have to be this way.

Over seven billion euros ($8bn) came into the country through the citizenship by investment scheme since its launch in 2013. The Golden Visa Scheme enables internationals who invest a minimum of €2 million to travel without visa requirements in European Union countries. These investments are primarily in the form of built property, many designed and built by global firms, and that is why they intersect with our work as Cultural Enrichers. In October, architecture’s abuse erupted in a scandal where corruption was rampant, from the parliamentary speaker down to service providers. As millions of euros are safeguarded in foreign bank accounts, the now infamous statement by one of the registered service providers, “Of course, we can change his name. This is Cyprus,” aggravates the pain, agony, disappointment, anger, and disgust experienced by the thousands whose lives in “This is NOT Cyprus” have unraveled through uncertainty, misery, and loss of trust in the future.

The bottom line is that there can be no social justice without design justice.

When looking at the buildings that cater to the golden visa market (see examples below), one can decipher that they do not follow architectural principles. They do not fit the landscape of the country, cannot be easily served by local fire departments, cast shadows and reduce the light in neighboring homes, result in gentrification and make housing unaffordable to locals, and leave us wondering what will happen to these “empty” highrises and the urban fabric when they start to deteriorate?

As architects, design educators, planners, policy makers, and citizens, we are called to pause and reflect on our role in perpetuating injustice:

  • How do we navigate making a living with protecting the health and well-being of residents in the communities in which we design?
  • How do we balance materializing our vision with ensuring that the end result will be sustainable?
  • How do we instill ethical practices that question whether resources gained through development trickle down and are used to eliminate disparities and inequality? Should architecture licensing require a code of ethics similar to the Hippocratic Oath espoused by physicians?
  • What skills, tools, and knowledge do we need to transform into advocates that can stand up to corruption and demand transparency in contracts that align development goals with social justice initiatives?
  • How do we ensure that our architecture is not abused?

It maybe too late for Cyprus but this scenario is bound to happen again unless we take a stand.

Tasoulla Hadjiyanni, Editor
[email protected]

Examples of Golden Visas properties throughout the island 

Tall buildings
Image credit: https://trilogylimassol.com/project

Tall buildings
Image credit: https://knews.kathimerini.com.cy/en/business/stepping-into-2020-limassol-del-mar-takes-shape

Tall buildings
Image credit: https://www.qualitydevelopments.com/projects/residential/item/kition?category_id=3

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