CULTURAL RELEVANCE THROUGH INTERIOR DESIGN (AN INVESTIGATION OF THE CYPRIOT TRADITION IN HOSPITALITY DESIGN)

 

Kika Ioannou Kazamia

Department of Architecture, University of Nicosia, Cyprus

 Anna Efstathiou

Department of Architecture, University of Nicosia,  Cyprus

 

ABSTRACT

Cultural Tourism is a significantly increasing alternative category of tourism in Cyprus, besides the most conventional ones. A wide range of the Cultural Heritage and the Folk Art of Cyprus, such as weaving, embroidery, pottery, basketry, artistic metalworking and woodcarving, not only find their place in traditional establishments, but become an inspiration for contemporary designers. All of these are part of the culture of the country and can be the basis for an integrated study.

Successful hospitality design is based on an integrating approach that considers all parties involved and all important factors; the type, the target group, the concept, the product, the style and the ambiance, the philosophy and the budget. Interior Designers deal with the functional frame of hospitality spaces, with the creation of an atmosphere, and the needs of the target groups, but in parallel and more than this, they should be creating a strong identity, which would be the competitive advantage between a particular hotel and its competitors and would give sensual and emotional cues to potential customers.

The present paper explores the aspect of cultural relevance of hospitality design and the interpretation of the cultural identity by designers. Further, it seeks to enlighten the needs of the clients and the hotel owners towards tradition, and to explore the ways in which designers can respond to those needs effectively. The study presents a number of design proposals and discusses aspects of the Cyprus culture in relevance to interior hospitality space, exploring at the same time the visual vocabulary and the notions signified.

The variety of the tangible and the intangible elements of the Cypriot culture becomes the basis for spatial interpretations by students and professional designers. This procedure is not limited to the sterile reference and imitation of specific forms of cultural heritage, but rather to the ongoing process of reconsidering and reliving the inspiring past.

Key words: Adaptive Re-use, Cultural Heritage, Cultural Tourism, Cypriot Culture

 

 

INTRODUCTION

The present paper records and discusses the visual vocabulary of the Cypriot culture and tradition as this is expressed in contemporary hospitality interiors by professional designers, by individuals related to touristic accommodation, as well as by student projects in the discipline.

Special interest tourism, and specifically cultural tourism and agrotourism are becoming significant parts of the Cypriot tourism product, enriching the “Sea and Sun” mode with “Sea and Sun Plus” (PwC Cyprus, 2013). So, in the official sites of the country, culture and tradition are becoming key notions to promote the touristic treasures of the island: “Cyprus enjoys an enviable worldwide sun and sea holiday destination with year round sunshine, blue skies and warm waters. However, this fascinating island has much more to offer. Away from the tourist areas, the Cyprus countryside has a diverse wealth of its own with traditional villages, vineyards and wineries, tiny fresco-painted churches, remote forests” (Cyprus Agrotourism Company, 2016). Cypriot culture becomes a key issue open to a variety of interpretations.

 

Cultural Tourism in Cyprus

In the present paper there will be reference to some of the elements of Cypriot culture related to craftsmanship and will be discussed the ways of influencing the design of contemporary hospitality interiors. Weaving, basketry, ceramics, lace making as well as building techniques and building materiality inspire designers and stakeholders and readdress a code of cultural identity. The conscious rediscovery of past structures promotes heritage as a marketing tool, something that seems to be very welcome by tourists. (Efstathiou A. Ioannou K., 2017, p.6)

 

Cyprus Culture and Cultural Heritage

In 2009 the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage in Cyprus (2015), agreed to bring together a study of the immovable cultural heritage of Cyprus. This European Union- funded study was realised in 2010 and resulted in the compilation of a list of more than 2,300 cultural heritage sites, the preparation of around 700 inventory charts, including those of historical background, pictures, topological details and architectural sketches of each monument, and the carrying out of 121 technical assessments, analysing the current conditions of the monuments, and restoration costing needs. Besides this, the Pan-Cyprian Architectural Heritage Organization in its effort to protect and preserve the island’s architectural and cultural tradition created a number of publications, as an initiative to reflect the different aspects of cultural heritage and introduce a list of traditional craftsmanship, among others ceramics, basket weaving and wood-carving considering them an integral part of the islands cultural heritage. (Pan Cyprian Architectural Heritage Organization, 1982, 1994, 2000)

The UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage and the Register of good safeguarding practices refers to Cyprus with 3 different elements: the Mediterranean diet, the tsiattista poetic duelling and the Lefkaritiko lace making (fig.1a,b,c).

 

   

Figure 1: Intangible Cypriot Heritage according to UNESCO: a. Mediterranean diet, b. tsiattista, c. Lefkaritiko lace

 

Moreover, eleven monuments are at the moment in the tentative list of Unesco to be nominated as tangible heritage: Church of Panayia Chrysokourdaliotissa, Kourdali, The rural settlement of Fikardou, Mathiatis South, Kionia, Khandria, Troodos, Mt. Olympus, Malounta Bridge, Klirou Bridge, Agioi Varnavas and Ilarion at Peristerona (Five-domed churches), Church of Panagia Aggeloktisti, Hala Sultan Tekke and the Larnaka Salt Lake Complex.

“Throughout 2018, we will celebrate our diverse cultural heritage across Europe - at EU, national, regional and local level. The aim of the European Year of Cultural Heritage is to encourage more people to discover and engage with Europe's cultural heritage, and to reinforce a sense of belonging to a common European space. The slogan for the year is: Our heritage: where the past meets the future” (europa.eu, 2018). “Our cultural heritage is more than the memory of our past; it is the key to our future. A European Year of Cultural Heritage will be an opportunity to raise awareness of the social and economic importance of cultural heritage and to promote European excellence in the sector” (Navracsics, 2018).

In Cyprus the paintings by the folk painter Kasialos, show clearly on the one hand how culture has affected his work and on the other, how his work has enhanced and promoted Cypriot culture. Michael C. Kasialos, the first renowned Cypriot folk painter, drew his themes from the manners, customs, traditions, occupations and habits of his fellow villagers (fig. 2a, b). According to the Leventis Gallery comment, his work depicts the world as he lived it, or as he was remembering it, and thus contains rich folkloric material.

 

  

Figure 2: Everyday life and Cypriot culture as expressed by the folk painter Kasialos: a. Διασκέδαση (entertainment), b. Κόβουν πλινθάρκα, (Adobe making)

 

Cyprus Tourism

Culture and heritage seem to be Cyprus’s most important assets, and cultural tourism could be the paramount form of special tourism. However, as it is noted in a study on competitiveness and prospects of tourism in Cyprus (2013), only one in two respondents, out of 58.6% who stated that cultural tourism was an important or very important criterion for choosing Cyprus, had successfully enjoyed a cultural tourism experience. This means that there is a lot to be done both by the state and the individuals to reach a really satisfactory level. Therefore, a general official plan and the involvement of the different participants remain to be discussed. While the focus in the tourism literature has largely been on looking at one particular stakeholder at a time, all stakeholders need to be identified and included in the process of negotiating (Hasse J.,2001) As it is mentioned in the final report for Cyprus Tourism Strategy, there is a need for a national tourism strategy and is noted that: ‘The new strategy will also be the basis to generate the necessary stakeholder consensus and support around tourism development and management” (Cyprus Tourism Strategy, 2017).

Moreover, Cornelissen (2004) provides a useful definition of stakeholders as “groups that are themselves affected by the operations of an organization, but can equally affect the organization, its operations and performance”. Further, according to the report, the major stakeholders are the local population, the investors and the tourists. Designers and architects are consequently, not only part of the   local population but also part of the investors’ influential cycle. As it is noted by Ioannou K., Kafaridou M., (2017) the impact of interior architecture and design practice on humans and their environment is apparent.

The recent Cultural Heritage Counts for Europe report declares that heritage creates jobs encourages investment and can improve social cohesion. An estimated 300,000 people work directly in the cultural heritage sector in the EU and as many as 7.8 million jobs are created indirectly by the sector. A large percentage of them are related to tourism.

 

Spatial Interpretations and Aspects of Cultural Relevance

Cyprus’s culture is integrated in many expressions of art and design. This integration requires a broader promotion of all alternative forms so the understanding of visitors will not be restricted to great buildings, monuments and museums but expand to include aspects of everyday living experience. This can perfectly fit into the design of hospitality establishments. Designers that are involved in such projects, along with the investors, should analyse the parameters and synthesise hospitality environments in a professional and responsible manner. The different aspects of Cyprus culture inspired the works that are presented below. Through those one can explore the vocabulary that is used in contemporary hospitality design in Cyprus attempting to create a cultural relevance. An in depth investigation and analysis of Cypriot culture, and of the ways that this could be introduced to hospitality designing, was explored by a number of Interior Design students in a real life project of the University of Nicosia.

A traditional complex of houses in the village of Tochni of the Larnaka area is adaptively reused into an agrotouristic establishment. Students researched, interviewed and eventually composed their proposal respecting the traditional architecture and the proper functionality of the premises, to better serve the guests and the hotel's tenants in the light of an actual cultural experience.  The main educational purpose was to guide students to understand the core of the Cypriot cultural heritage to respect it and become able to reproduce values and interpret heritage in a productive and respectful manner. During the introduction to the thematic reference was made to the Nicosia’s urban heritage, but also to representative rural examples such as Fikardou village and Kalopanayiotis village, where well thought restorations promote Cypriot culture (fig. 3a,b, c).

 

Figure 3: a, b. Kalopanayiotis village: Architectural Heritage as a touristic establishment, c.Fikardou village: restoration of an old house by Mr Farmakas A.

 

As a first step students attended a week’s workshop under the title “Experimenting with the living past” (Efstathiou, Shehade 2017).  The aim of the workshop was hands-on experience. The preservation of built heritage has been acknowledged as one of the main drivers of sustainable development and local regeneration. Therefore understanding how architectural heritage changes and recognising its value and significance, is the key to effective and conscious production of new spatial environments. This 5-day workshop aimed to introduce students to the significance and sustainable preservation of built heritage, to equip them with basic knowledge on its preservation and to provide them with the theoretical background and practical skills necessary for preservation projects. Since Architects and Interior Architects have a vital role in maintaining the importance of cultural and built heritage in society, this workshop offered to the participants an opportunity for a creative interpretation of the challenges that maintaining built heritage creates in current attempts of urban progress and development. In a sense, the core of the workshop was to stimulate creativity through an interaction and experimentation with the ‘living’ past around us. Participating students had to record the materiality and the structures that they discovered during their site visits to building heritage and record them in the form of a visual vocabulary (fig. 4).

Figure 4: Visual Vocabulary of Cypriot Architectural heritage, Source Efstathiou 2017

 

Additionally, the realisation of the model of a listed building, using materials and techniques as much close to reality as possible, offered to students the opportunity to be introduced hands-on to the skills and techniques of traditional building labour and craftsmanship (fig. 5).

 

Figure 5: Realisation of a model of a traditional house and its components, Source Efstathiou 2017

In continuation students were involved in the design process of the Tochni establishment, following the analysis and the synthesis phases. They attempted the incorporation of cultural relevance in their proposals and developed projects that aim to introduce guests to pleasant and authentic environments that are not museum like collections or imitations and frozen scenographic representations of the past, but contemporary habitations, integrating culture and tradition with contemporary needs.

 

Analysis

As it is noted by Scarpa (Albertini B. 1988) “a fundamental inquiry into any aspect of reality is the relationship between the part and the whole, the fragment and the complex, the detail and the invisible unity of a deed of an object, of a thought”. Moreover, as Allen P.S (2000) notes, designers may use a range of terminologies to define the design process or the methods of the implementation of a project. All terminologies or methods centre on the analysis and synthesis of the design result. He further explains that: “Analysis focuses on discovery. Analysing a design project requires gathering information, understanding goals and objectives, researching related codes and other technical data, comprehending the design problem, and defining the design criteria. Once this information has been assimilated, designers begin to synthesize the solution”.

Figure 6: Tochni project: site and building analysis. UNIC students: Kakouri S., Al Qusous D., Supervisor Ioannou K., Source Ioannou 2017

 

During the analysis phase of the Tochni project students worked in order to discover the elements that are significant parts of the whole and understand their contribution (fig.6). They explored some significant visual components and the techniques, the materiality, the textures, the colours, the scale related to Cypriot culture and specifically textiles and textile patterns, engraving, basketry, weaving (fig. 7).

Figure 7: Cultural elements and materiality. UNIC students: Theodoulou A., Kakouri S., Supervisor Ioannou K., Source Ioannou 2017

 

Concept Development and Design Synthesis

‘The synthesis phase also requires an immense amount of contemplative thought. Designers stretch their imaginations and develop alternative solutions to the design problem. They continuously return to the analysis phase to select the best solution and refine it to meet the client’s needs. Designers create, select and produce design presentations using visual communication to be reviewed by the client. Based on the client’s feedback,   designers will return to the analysis phase to rethink or retool the solution.’ (Allen P.S. et al, 2000).

 

Figure 8: Synthesis of elements. UNIC students: Savidou S., Paschali C. Koutsoulli A., Supervisor IoannouK., Source Ioannou 2017

In the present case study, students developed an understanding for the issue at hand, by utilising and integrating elements from the Cyprus tradition and culture and from the craftsmanship process (fig. 8). As it is described in the book Traditional Craftsmen of Cyprus (1982) ‘in the pre-industrial society, the craftsman was the vehicle, the person who gave expression to work-shop activity, working with raw materials and half-finished materials”.

Students included in their presentations that part of the design process called concept development (fig. 9).   Either two dimensional or three dimensional, their concept proposals were almost all based on their experimentation with the traditional craftsmanship such as basket-weaving techniques, patterns from traditional embroidery, pottery making, weaving.

 

Figure 9: Concept development. UNIC student: Theodoulou A., Supervisor Ioannou K., Source Ioannou 2017

 

Some proposals were based on the technique of loom weaving, or the traditional embroidery applied on handmade ceramic tiles, textile patterns and interior structures. One proposal was based on the hard basket-weaving techniques for creating baskets which can stand up to hard-wear. The material used is from the bushy turpentine trees that grow in the island’s mountains (Traditional Craftsmen of Cyprus, 1982). In one of the case studies, the basket weaving technique, found its application in the interior space as a horizontal net on the ceiling to accommodate general lighting and vertical functional dividers. Another suggestion was based on the technique of the soft basket weaving called siriza (fig. 10). This technique was originally developed to be used for the transportation of vegetables from the fields to the market.  In this case study the same technique was used to create "recesses" made of reeds, for shadowing outdoors and for objects and surfaces in the interior. However, another suggestion was based on a more abstract idea, that of the sense of intimacy that one feels when visiting traditional sites. The proposed outcome of this concept was to try to create indoor or outdoor environments applying this feeling. Recesses made of reed for shadowing outdoors and resting inside, materiality and scale were the means to achieve it.

 

Figure 10: Concept development and design proposal based on basket-weaving technique siriza. UNIC student: Kakouri S., Supervisor Ioannou K., Source Ioannou 2017

 

Conclusions

The key sentence of the European Year of Cultural Heritage “Our heritage: where the past meets the future” has to become the aim both of designers and those working in the tourism industry and the key for decision making in both fields. In the 21st century, the interior design industry and the concept of interior design change in many ways. Similarly, we have to consider the changing needs of tourism. More than ever before Design Education has to ensure that designers of tomorrow will join their forces to keep in balance the qualities and the values of the past with the challenges of the future. Designers of hospitality environments should use methods that comply with the principles of design in the interior space and at the same time with the use of traditional methods of creation empowering their work with cultural relevance.

“Order and articulation in architecture is a descending sequence of detail. Each dominant element in the composition becomes alive through detail. The chosen materials with the characteristics of texture, colour, surface and pattern are decorations and when integrated with logic and daring result in richness, but are only successful when organized with sensitivity and care”. (Scarpa, in Albertini B., 1988).

 

 

REFERENCES

Albertini B. (1988), Carlo Scapra: Architecture in Detail, Architecture, Design and Technology Press, London.

Allen P.S., Stimpson M.F. & Jones L.M. (2000), Beginnings of Interior Environments, Prentice Hall Inc. New Jersey.

Cornelissen, J. (2004), Corporate Communications: Theory and Practice. London, Sage Publications.

Efstathiou A., Ioannou Kazamia K. (2017), ‘New Tourism Cultures in Reused Spaces in Cyprus: An Investigation Through Students’ Projects’,  Journal of Tourism Research, Vol. 16, June 2017, pp. 271-282.

Efstathiou A., Shehade M., (2017), Experimenting with the Living Past, Catalyst Workshop, Department of Architecture, University of Nicosia.

Hasse J., (2001), Stakeholder Perceptions of Tourism Development in Marahau/New Zealand: A Role for Participatory Approaches and Gis, thesis submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Tourism Management, Victoria University of Wellington.

Hospitality and Leisure Group of PwC Cyprus & PwC’s Chair at the University of Nicosia (2013), Opening the vault of tourism in Cyprus, a study on the competitiveness and prospects of tourism in Cyprus, University of Nicosia

Ioannou K., Kafaridou M. ‘Creating a Felt Need for Change towards Sustainable Design Practices’ Journal of Teaching and Education (JTE): Vol.7, No1: pp305-212, 2017

Navracsics T., EU Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport https://ec.europa.eu/culture/news/20160830-commission-proposal-cultural-heritage-2018_en [Accessed: 25/04/2018]

Pan -Cyprian Architectural Heritage Organization, (1982, 1994, 2000), Nicosia Municipality.

The Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage in Cyprus (2015), United Nations Development Programme, Partnership for the Future.

World Interiors Event (2013) http://www.inamsterdam.org/en/events [Accessed: 08/11/2013]

List of picture referencing:

[1]  Fig. 1a. http://www.cyprusalive.com/img/ckeditor/greek-foodjpg.jpg, b. tsiattista 2016 https://i.ytimg.com/vi/TD_txY1A-to/maxresdefault.jpg, c. rural_cyprus_agrotourism_2016_EN [Accessed: 25/04/2018]

[2]  a. http://www.assia.org.cy/photo-gallery/image.raw?type=orig&id=2823, b. http://www.assia.org.cy/photo-gallery/image.raw?type=orig&id=2667 [Accessed: 25/04/2018]

[3]  Fig. 3, a, b https://el.hotels.com/ho450290/casale-panayiotis-kalopanagiotes-kypros/, [Accessed: 25/04/2018], b. source: Efstathiou 2017