Supreme Court, Nicosia
NICOSIA (CY) - Alexandros Livadas' Supreme Court exemplifies a new period of modernization in Cypriot architecture.
Since the 1990s a number of national and European competitions organized by both central and local governments, have formed the context for the emergence of new architectural trends in Cyprus and given young architects an opportunity to build. It is argued that Cypriot architecture is going through a new 'period of modernization', this time in pursuit of a 'European' profile. The first period of modernization, in the 1960s, marked the transition from 'primitive' colony to independent state and introduced Modernism not only to architecture but to every aspect of social life.
The design for the new Supreme Court building is the result of an architectural competition won in 1997 by architect Alexandros Livadas. The building stands next to the old Court where it forms an important node in the urban public network due to its proximity to the Venetian Walls, the public park, Parliament, the General Hospital, the Archeological Museum and the Public Theatre (most of them erected during the British colonial era). Five years of construction preceded its inauguration this year. When parts of a 13th-century monastery were uncovered, the entrance was reconfigured to allow the ruins to be permanently displayed, thus making it possible for different historical periods to overlap.
The design had to address the complex organization of the judicial process in modern societies. The building programme is consequently divided into three, indirectly connected sections: the public services, the offices of the judiciary and the courtrooms. This tripartite organization is expressed in different structural systems.
Public services are on two levels along the longitudinal axis of the building. The welcoming staircase of the main entrance foyer provides access to all the public services on the first floor. On the ground floor, a long corridor connects the secondary functions: a multi-purpose room, the library and the café. The latter opens onto a public space used for gatherings, events and happenings. A steel-framed roof extends beyond the external walls, providing shelter and underlining the space's public purpose.
The two floors of court offices are housed in a triangular, concrete volume of conventional structure. In this introverted part of the building, movements and connections are internally organized. There is direct access from the underground car park. Offices and meeting rooms are organized along a V-shaped internal corridor. Enclosed light wells enhance the sense of introversion while transparent glass surfaces heighten the effect of a three-dimensional labyrinth. Bridges spanning the light wells lead directly to the courtrooms.
Between the offices and the public services are thirteen courtrooms. They are the most prominent feature of the building: functionally – as the place where trials are held; structurally – a sophisticated steel construction; morphologically – owing to the distinctive curvilinear geometry; and visually – the external cladding is green titanium zinc. They are visible from almost every viewpoint. Inside they appear as floating volumes in the double-height space while on the outside they define the building's skyline.
The Supreme Court also incorporates an existing, restored neo-classical building, a typical early-20th-century structure built in porous, yellow, local stone. The old building has been dramatically reconfigured with exhibition space on the ground floor and the publications office on the floor above. The juxtaposition of old and new generates a dialogue between static and dynamic spatial geometry, between old and new materials, between traditional and innovative structure. An elevated steel bridge simultaneously connects them and underlines their differences.
September | 2006 | Cyprus | Petros Phokaides