Ruins

Εγκατελειμένη Λευκωσία – Abandoned Lefkosia.

Old Nicosia, Cyprus


My thesis was followed by a series of photos taken in the old town of Nicosia, Cyprus. The photographs document small-scale abandoned buildings, treated as an addendum to my thesis. Cyprus is my home and a country still dealing with its recent turbulent and devastating past. It is under this context of a place of sensitive memory that I wished to pursue my interest.

The effects of recent history are embedded in the city’s present physical fabric; a divided city holding scars indicative of its past, while the old town lies on the edge of a buffer zone. Many houses found appear to have been abandoned in the hastiest way. Dishes have been found, lying in sinks, covered in years of dust, as if residents deserted their houses in unexpected ‘escapes’, or assumed swift returns. It both bewilders and intrigues how families could have left behind their entire photographic family history, passports, medicines and even simple personal objects such as reading glasses. It is mystifying and sends my imagination rushing. It is not impossible that all this may have happened in times of war or unrest, for some of these derelict houses match the era of the invasion. It is peculiar how nothing has become of many, nothing has changed and no one has claimed them. The initial proprietors have seemingly disappeared.

This documentation includes buildings that have been left in the same state as that in which they were abandoned for years. One could almost imagine hearing the washing machine rumbling, the phone ringing, the man of the house fixing tyres; wedding photos, postcards and passports were among found objects, as well as clothes and furnishings such as curtains (not always in ordinary places). These spaces evoke a severe sense of memory reverting back to the theme of phenomenology in my dissertation and Gaston Bachelard’s ‘Poetics of Space’; most importantly his argument that A house that has been experienced is not an inert box.

Some spaces were found to be inhabited by squatters, which up to that time was a notion unknown to me in Cyprus. Security on abandoned places is virtually unheard of; it is not difficult to enter these spaces and there are no laws as to squatting, much unlike London (the essay’s focus), where squatters’ rights are publicized and fully taken advantage of. The squatters seemed to be using the space solely out of need and taking very good care not to get caught.

Of my findings, one which resonated most, was a house that appeared to be disintegrating back into its site, slowly being reclaimed by nature. Nature’s presence was felt more so than the building itself, more than the walls and the floors of which it was made. Nature was spilling through every opening, pushing through every corner, and enveloping the house in pure green vegetation. This links back to the case study of my dissertation and the ‘life vs. death’ theme which were very much about nature being a wholly important factor in the life of abandoned spaces and places, regenerating the degenerate.


All content and images are © Natalie Savva 2010. All rights reserved.

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2 Comments to “Ruins”

  1. interesting pictures 🙂

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