National Participation of Cyprus at the 14th International Architecture Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia
07/06 – 23/11 2014
Michael Hadjistyllis and Stefanos Roimpas
The National Participation of Cyprus at the 14th International Architecture Exhibition La Biennale di Venezia is entitled “Anatomy of the Wallpaper”, curated by Michael Hadjistyllis and Stefanos Roimpas.
The topic ‘Absorbing Modernity 1914–2014’ has been assigned to the 66 national participations by this year’s Director Rem Koolhaas in order to reveal, each in their own way, the process of the erasure of national characteristics in architecture in favor of the almost universal adoption of a single modern language and a single repertoire of typologies.
The national participation showcases an endeavour towards a creative and retrospective reconstruction of the island’s history, and specifically of its most important settlement, Nicosia. Cyprus has suffered throughout its history from invaders, conquerors and colonial powers, who left their marks indelibly on the form and structure of the island’s settlements. Nicosia, a city of innumerable historical, social and cultural layers, was constructed in the same way as History, persistently by the victors, and according to their history. The Island’s capital forms a polyphony of diverse paradigms of architectural forms and cultures.
The Story of Nicosia is presented in an allegory. In a literary device, with its immense power to illustrate multifaceted ideas and concepts, easily assimilated and tangible to its viewers. The city required a Wallpaper to stimulate its growth. Suspended right along its center, the Wallpaper gave it a striking imaginary background: a spectacle through the years, contributing to an unexpected Scenario. Gradually opposed along either side of the Wallpaper, the City’s two different parts, developing different aspirations, about an aggressive confrontation. A developing megalomania led both sides into a non-comprehensive settlement. Space became the battlefield of conflicting ideologies. A City’s alarmed awakening facing a blank Wallpaper, operated by a newly powered domain, giving an end to madness! A ‘horror vacui’ sense, declares the City’s worst economic catastrophe, followed by an identical one. Later on, when the Wallpaper’s layers are scraped away, or washed off, different landscapes are revealed. Events from various periods appear, while the City rediscovers its history. The Wallpaper, dividing its core, paradoxically provides space for contact – space, where collective memory was recorded, whilst the City can pursue its identity.
When ideologies fade, undeniable truth and theories proved as false, identities are flattened and sacrificed to modernity, only then history reaches its pivotal point, and the Story can be reconstructed! Is the Wallpaper formatted into an immaterial and intangible element, to symbolize Nicosia’s divisions. A crossing line, dated from the medieval to the contemporary period, keeps mutating in time, absorbing the city’s history and collective memory. Later on, new physical layers are inserted on the Wallpaper, -its earliest form, immaterialized and intangible, is transfigured into a physical barrier-. It encompasses thickness, then it is formatted into Wall and ultimately into Space. By presenting a simplified narrative form, we aim to prioritize ideas.
Part of the Wallpaper will be exposed on a real scale in a crucial form, whilst it is decorticating, and allowing the viewer to reveal different stories of time – a gesture, that testifies the allegory’s historical validity.