Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios recently completed the Leventis Art Gallery, a new art gallery with restaurant and apartments for the AG Leventis Foundation, a private foundation supporting educational, cultural and philanthropic causes and promoting Hellenic culture.
The Gallery is located in a part of Nicosia originally developed under the guidance of Lord Kitchener in the late 19th century in the first wave of urbanisation outside the fifteenth century Venetian city walls. The site is adjoined by neighbours of different generations - from the two-storey villas of the nineteenth century to commercial towers of the 21st. The Gallery mediates between these two extremes and "heals the disjunction in the grain of the city".
The eroded building form is inspired by the vernacular response to Cyprus' climatic challenges, creating a tenuous play between solid and void and generating a series of public and private courtyards and gardens, which connect to the street, and the spectacular views to the Pentadaktylos Mountains to the north.
Inspired by tradition
The building takes its inspiration from traditional Cypriot architecture of local stone, with small, shuttered openings which exclude the fierce heat in summer, but open to allow the winter sun to penetrate.
Local planning policies largely dictated the building footprint and the requirement for external space led to the creation of a courtyard embraced the three-storey gallery and open to the street.
"We challenged the prevailing use of thin, open-jointed stone rain screens and set out to echo the homogeneity of the traditional stone buildings with their fine detail and tight mortared joints," the architects said.
However, as the quarries which supplied the stone for historic Nicosia lie within occupied territory, the architects instead used Palestinian limestone which sits easily in its context. Echoing the traditional use of slatted timber shutters, openings and balconies are screened with perforate metal panels, the bespoke patterning of which was inspired by William Morris' olive leaf design. The bronze anodised aluminium is rendered almost the same colour as the stone in bright light and, as shutters are moved to admit or exclude the sun, the apparent solidity is transformed.
"Creating a new cultural centre that embodies the personality of the family collection and also contributes to the regeneration of Nicosia proved an interesting challenge," the Studio said.
Carefully orientated openings provide views to the city, connecting the collection of art and artefacts to a broader cultural context. Daylight from rooflights, designed to exclude harmful UV, floods the galleries, the upper two stories of which are connected by light shafts.
Each apartment occupies an entire floor of the tower with balconies facing south, west and - interspersed with bays - north to the mountains. A generous living room/kitchen faces south, east and north and provides a spectacular eyrie overlooking central Nicosia.
The Gallery and apartments are designed to minimise energy use by avoiding potentially harmful solar gains, enhanced insulation and airtightness and use of daylight wherever feasible. Geothermal energy is harnessed via cast-in coils to provide background heating and cooling with a constant temperature of 20 degrees Celsius.
Client: A. G. Leventis Foundation
Architect: Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios
Local Architect: J&A Philippou, Cyprus
Structural Engineer: J&A Philippou, Cyprus
M&E Engineer: Max Fordham LLP
Local M&E Engineer: GEMAC