Belfast students help unite last 'divided city'

Nicosia Buffer Zone
Nicosia Buffer Zone

Postgraduatestudents from Queen’s University Belfast are using design to help unite the last ‘divided city’ in Europe.
Twelve sixth year students from the School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering are designing ‘gluing schemes’ to bring together the two communities in the Cypriot capital, Nicosia.
Cyprus has been divided into a Turkish-Cypriot northern region and a Greek-Cypriot southern region since 1974. The United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) is responsible for the area that separates the two sides, or the Buffer Zone.
The Queen’s students are among only a handful of people, mostly diplomats, who have had access to the Buffer Zone since it was first sealed in 1963.
Large areas are untouched by human activity. Remnants of old villages, shops and other reminders of life in old Nicosia are scattered throughout the Zone. The Buffer Zone has now turned into a haven for flora and fauna, thriving on the near absence of hunters and most other human interference.
Responding to the guidelines of the Nicosia Masterplan, this is the first attempt to rehabilitate the Zone through projects aimed at bringing the two communities, Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot, together. These regeneration proposals are attempting to revitalise the Buffer zone in the heart of the walled city.
Dr Karim Hadjri, studio co-ordinator in the School, said: “Nicosia was selected by us given its ongoing physical division and similarities with Belfast”.
“It is referred to as the last divided city in Europe. We felt that our students, due to their background and experience of division in Northern Ireland, would relate to the local issues and could offer bi-communal and integrated solutions through architecture.”
This week Dr Christos Hadjichristos (a Greek Cypriot), who is a lecturer in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering from the University of Cyprus in Nicosia and Dr Fevzi Ozersay (a Turkish Cypriot), who is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Architecture, Eastern Mediterranean University, Famagusta will visit Belfast for an update on the students’ proposals.
The design schemes by the students, who have visited Nicosia twice, involve cultural, educational and healthcare proposals, among them a theatre of memory, national library and Cypriot academy of fine arts.
Dr Hadjri added: “Both communities, Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot, are very excited about the involvement of our students. They are looking forward to seeing the fruits of their efforts in May, when they will be displayed in an exhibition in Cyprus and in forthcoming publications.”