Ecological Rebirth of Cypriot Ghost Town

varosha beachThe glamorous tourist resort of Varosha, Famagusta has been deserted since the Turkish invasion in 1974. Residents left and chain-link fences isolated the region. In the last 40 years, few have visited Varosha, which is still enclosed with wire and guarded by the Turkish army. Nowadays, the beachfront hotels and resorts are the only evidence of Varosha’s glamorous past.

But this “ghost town” may have a future. Jan Wampler, distinguished MIT architect professor and eco city specialist, will undertake along with a team of architects, urban planners, businessmen and activists the responsibility to rebuild the deserted town from scratch. With the help and support of Cypriot-American filmmaker Vassia Markides, they want to turn Varosha into a model reunited eco city with a local character, which will be inhabited again, generate revenue and boost the economy of the country.

“This is a tremendous opportunity,” Wampler stated during a five-day brainstorming seminar to draft a range of design proposals for how to redesign the ghost town of Varosha and the wider Famagusta area. He also added that he would like the new city to be known throughout Europe as an example of an ecological and sustainable city, with many job opportunities for young people.

But the project is still under question, as Cyprus has asked to get Varosha back, in an attempt to ameliorate the relation between the two countries. “The country’s complex politics continue to remain the primary obstacle to the town’s return and must be resolved to get the project off the drawing board” said Alexis Galanos, the Greek Cypriot mayor of Famagusta that incorporates Varosha. With the return of the town talks still on hold, project collaborators George Lordos and Ceren Bogac said that this project is an excellent example to reflect people power, as Cypriots from both sides can describe how they envision their future city.

Situated on the island’s eastern coastline, Varosha was renowned for its white sand beaches and warm azure waters. If the eco city project gets approval, Wampler, who is against “homogenization” of modern architecture, says he would like to use home-grown materials in the town’s reconstruction so as to ensure that its Cypriot character is retained. He also would like to demolish the enormous hotels and redesign the beach area for the citizens.

The 35-year old Markides stated: “We want a set of guidelines that anyone responsible for redesigning the city will have to follow to make sure that we do it the right way this time. We need to bring alternative technologies here, which are the wave of the future. Why not be ahead of the game?” She is also producing a documentary about Varosha to raise funds for the eco-project.

In conclusion, despite the fact that Fiona Mullen, a Cyprus-based economist and project collaborator estimated in 2009 that Varosha’s reconstruction would cost $2 billion, she said that the project will create much economic potential, will attract many investors and will give Cyprus a competitive advantage over cheaper tourist destinations of the region.