Historical Development of Housing in Cyprus

Cyprus is an island in the northeast of the Mediterranean with an area of 9283 km². The island is bordered by Turkey in the north, Syria in the east, and Egypt in the south. For centuries it has been a place where many powerful and wealthy civilizations wanted to dominate, as it served as a gateway connecting Asia, Europe and Africa. Some of the periods that these civilzations were active on the island and caused strong changes upon it are as follows: Byzantine period (330-1191), Lusignan period (1192-1489), Venetian period (1489-1571), Ottoman period (1571-1878) and British period (1878-1960) [Alasya, 1988, p. 5]. In Cyprus, which hosts populations from different cultures, various effects are seen from the architectural field to the socio-cultural structure.

As it is understood from the archaeological excavations, the concept of housing has gone through many stages until today. Before mankind realized the existence of the dominance of himself and his environment, the concept of housing included primitive coexistence. According to Doğan Kuban, this was a “collective shelter”.

Due to its nature, humanity needs closed spaces to meet their needs, to protect themselves against the outside world and to continue their life. Thus, they have created places where they can shelter from the formations in nature and have developed these living areas in time.

Mankind, trying to find life in tree hollows and natural caves, could not fit into the areas they lived in with the increase in their population, and when finding food in their surroundings became a problem, they started to migrate to other regions.

With the quests that started like this, human beings have designed many structures within their own means to increase the level of comfort they experience. Housing is the name given to the covered/semi-enclosed space groups that people who are looking for a safe life create in order to protect themselves from bad weather conditions, wild animals and sometimes other human communities.

Early humans built makeshift shelters with branches or bushes; Over time, they started to build more durable buildings by using local materials such as stone, brick, wood, and adobe. With the increase in the population and the direct needs of life, warehouses, kitchens, residences, worship rooms, courtyards and even shops were started to be built. Since they preferred to live together in the past, the houses they built formed narrow streets and small villages. “Terra Amata” (400,000-300,000 BC) in France, Hasuna houses in Mesopotamia (7500 BC), Çatalhöyük (6500-5650 BC) in Anatolia, and Khirikotia (5800-3000 BC) in the Neolithic Age in Cyprus, the third largest island of the Mediterranean, are examples of the first man-made dwellings [Roth, 2000, p. 202-203].

Khirokitia (Fletcher’s, 1996, s.32).

Traditional Cypriot housing has an important place in the history of housing. This process, which started from prehistory, continued to take shape by passing through different periods such as ancient, medieval and new age.

Pervin Abohorlu Doğramacı
Dr. Architect