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From Turin to Toronto
Presentations on Doxiadis Associates in Nigeria and the ghost city of Varosha, Cyprus
In the spirit of the month of giving thanks, this month I’d like to express my gratitude for two recent opportunities to share my research and writing abroad—in Turin, Italy, and Toronto, Canada.
In this post, I’ll touch on both experiences and outline the main points of the articles I presented. These projects represent outcomes of my long-term research on the legacy of Constantinos Doxiadis and my Fulbright-sponsored research in Cyprus, respectively.
Ekistics in Nigeria at the AISU Congress in Turin
In September, I traveled to Turin, Italy, to present my paper “‘Close to being right?’ C.A. Doxiadis, The Lagos Handbook, and the Harvard Project on the City’s Narrativization of Postcolonial Planning in Nigeria,” at the 2022 Congress of the Associazone Italiana di Storia Urbana (AISU).
If you know me, you’ve probably heard about my research on the life and times of Constantinos A. Doxiadis (1913-1975), a global architect and planner who notably designed Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan and also worked on other projects in 35 countries across the world. He also was the creator of a design philosophy called ekistics, the science of human settlements.
My paper shed light on one aspect of how Doxiadis’ work in Nigeria and overall ekistics framework has been received by later architects, particularly by the influential Dutch architect and writer, Rem Koolhaas. My lens into that view was through a particularly arresting chapter of The Lagos Handbook, a mysterious and massive unpublished book that only exists in galley editions the Harvard Library’s archives.
Written by the Harvard Project of the City (a program supervised by Koolhaas), The Lagos Handbook takes an encyclopedic look at the eponymous megacity of Nigeria while interrogating how earlier global architects and planners interpreted the city’s situation across time.
Though Doxiadis is ignored by most subsequent planning histories, The Lagos Handbook offers a fascinating critique with a surprisingly lucid interpretation of Doxiadis’ ambition and vision.
It was an honor to present on an amazingly talented international panel regarding postcolonial architectural interventions. My essay about the handbook should be published next year in the conference proceedings. This newsletter will keep you posted as to when that article becomes available.
Conferences in Lombardy have their own special attractions. The opening cocktail party was held at a palace. The final dinner was… held at another, more elaborate palace.
Meanwhile, Turin’s cuisine is incredible, its espresso and prosciutto dazzling; the quiet nature of the city on the Po and at the edge of the Alps a pleasant salve to the hustle and bustle of nearby Milan. All in all, I am very grateful for this opportunity, which was supported by AISU’s young scholar participation grants.
Discussing Varosha at the MGSA Symposium in Toronto
One of the key components of my research in Cyprus was studying the various perspectives and visions for the future of the ghost city of Varosha, Cyprus, a once-prospering modern neighborhood of the port city of Famagusta that was abandoned by its Greek Cypriot inhabitants during the Turkish invasion of the island in 1974, an intervention preceded by a Greek-sponsored coup in the Cypriot government.
Since then, one-third of Cyprus has been occupied by Turkey, and Varosha was fenced off by the Turkish military and allowed to decay in place as a bargaining chip in the ongoing (and elusive) peace process.
My presentation at the 2022 Modern Greek Studies Association (MGSA) Symposium in Toronto, “City in Amber: Competing visions for the future of Varosha,” juxtaposed such contrasting perspectives held by the Famagusta Ecocity Project, the Greek Cypriot municipality-in-exile, and the Turkish Cypriot Muslim Foundation of EVKAF, all who have opinions on their respective ideal futures for Varosha.
And yet, the future of Varosha is still under the purview of the Turkish military, which in 2020 turned part of the ghost city into a site for dark tourism. I hope to adapt this presentation, a narrative collage and companion piece to my June lecture on the image of Limassol at the CVAR Museum in Nicosia, for publication in other venues soon.
It was wonderful to present my research at the MGSA alongside other scholars working on topics related to Greece and Cyprus, a welcoming community that I’ve been proud to have been a part of for a while now. I am very grateful for the support the MGSA gave me to present at the conference, which made my appearance possible. Though I didn’t get to spend much time in the city, Toronto is an amazing metropolis, with friendly people, broad access to public transportation, and excellent cuisine.
Still on the horizon for The Usonian is a four-part series on the history of Famagusta, one of the most fascinating places in all of Cyprus, a city whose history stretches from the Bronze Age to now, with ruins from every period of human habitation. Keep an eye out for these posts, which will arrive in early 2023.
This is the twenty-ninth post in The Cyprus Files, a newsletter series from The Usonian chronicling my Fulbright experiences in Cyprus. Thanks for reading, and if you haven’t subscribed to The Usonian to read about storytelling and design from the edge, please consider joining the list.