What we learned from working on a foreign market
In this article, we would like to introduce you to one of our recent projects. Panthea Hills is a residential complex in Cyprus, for which SGI was hired to develop both a conceptual and a masterplan project. Later the team was also hired to consult on the technical project development alongside our Cyprian colleagues.
In this article, we would like to introduce you to one of our recent projects. Panthea Hills is a residential complex located in Cyprus, for which SGI was hired to develop both a conceptual and a masterplan project. Later the team was also hired to consult on the technical project development alongside our Cyprian colleagues.
Architecture always needs to comply with the geographical south whether it is hiding from the sun or chasing it. Sometimes, however, there is another compositional “south”. It could be the Fuji mountain in Japan or Vitosha mountain in Sofia. In Cyprus’ case, this is the sea. This naturally became one of the key points around which we centred the project.
The first step of the working process was to carry out a thorough analysis of the environment. The economic findings of the research showed us that construction is a fundamental part of the Cyprian economy. Geographically speaking, we have a mountainous island, or in other words, a terrain sloping towards the sea, with numerous views. This provides opportunities for international investment.
Consequently, the density of development is high. One of the biggest challenges the project presented us with was to make a higher quality product in this environment while protecting the investor's interest.
In the drawing, you can see the urban planning that we had to work with at the beginning of the project. By looking at the geography, a few key disadvantages of the masterplan become evident. Firstly, the park is crammed between two parcels, the terrain has not been accounted for, the parcels of the houses are overlapping and very few of them have a sea view.
After doing our research and analysis the next steps were amending the brief and getting approval from the municipality, or the so-called planning, which we were also responsible for. We successfully proposed a new plan which you can see in the next drawing. Some of the key actions that we took were making the park more easily accessible, and complying with the terrain and the house parcels in a way that ensured a view towards either the sea or the park. Ultimately, we managed to introduce a poly-product incorporating stand-alone houses, twin houses, residential buildings, a park environment and an internal street. For every project we take up, we always try to find the most appropriate solutions. For this particular project, we agreed that the environment hasn’t reached the development stage where a multifunctional complex with shared functions is appropriate.
At the very beginning of the project, we decided to use one of its specifics to our advantage. Since the parcel was surrounded by a dug-in street, retaining walls were present. Instead of finding a way around this.
Since the start of the planning, we integrated one of the specifics of the terrain. When the street surrounding the parcel was built it was dug into the ground, consequently providing supporting walls. By building a souterrain with garages and ramps for each separate property, we organized an internal street, providing access to each of the properties and allowing us to build cascading gardens. In this way, we provided the necessary privacy from the traffic of the street, despite the standard 3 m distance of the houses from the street. This also made it geometrically impossible for the passers-by to have a view of the garden and allowed for the porch and the ground floor to have a top view of the street and the sea horizon.
Another challenge, that the project met us with, was the conventionally higher density, compared to the one we deal with in Bulgaria. On the other hand, it turned out that we were able to locate the buildings on the edges of the parcel with blind walls, without them needing to be boarded up or covered by the neighbouring house. This enabled us to fully open up the other elevations of the houses to their backyards and the spectacular views from the hill above the town and out to the sea. Due to the warm climate, the proximity to the neighbouring house added the advantage of shading in the hotter hours of the day, without them having visibility of each other’s courtyards. The high density did not prevent us from providing a high-quality living environment.
One more specific of the project was the climate which called for careful consideration of the open spaces. On the one hand, the warm weather and humidity make the maintenance of the greenery hard, on the other hand, those conditions are a prospect for high open space demand.
That is why the courtyard is conceptualized by a basic function that is so important that it is even carried over into the condominiums. This is the possibility to take the dinner table outside. To all the houses and apartments in the complex, we provided a veranda or loggia of a size sufficient for a table for 6-8 people. In Cyprus, this is an essential requirement.
We are actively trying to apply this model to our projects for Bulgaria. For example, where the brief allows it, instead of two small balconies, we provide one larger balcony or loggia which carries more functionality with it. In this way, people get access to outdoor space at the most important time of the day, in the evening, when the whole family gathers at the table.
Despite the high density of the properties, the scale of the venture requires the investors to set aside a green area free from development. As can be seen in the images, we organized the park to have a wide outlet to the internal street and to be easily accessible. By locating it at the rear of the parcel, we enabled properties located in this area to have views of the green space instead of sea views. We also made sure that all properties had direct access to the park via an internal estate road. In this way, we significantly increased the recreational characteristics of the environment.
In addition to all the other perks of the internal street, there was another motive for its development. Instead of using ready-made peripheral communication for access, we preferred to define an internal street in order to create an architecturally controlled environment. This gave the project its own, distinctive street skyline, creating the feeling of a 'concrete urban corner'. This internal pocket gives people the opportunity to spend time outside in a pleasant urbanized, yet green, environment.
Working on this project has been a great pleasure for us as it has allowed us to immerse ourselves in a different built environment, to learn valuable useful practices, but also to see what is missing there and what we can contribute with our experience from Bulgaria and other countries.
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