An analytical methodology for revitalization strategies in historic urban quarters: a case study of the walled city of nicosia, north cyprus

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НазваниеAn analytical methodology for revitalization strategies in historic urban quarters: a case study of the walled city of nicosia, north cyprus
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Naciye Doratlı,

EMU Faculty of Architecture, North Cyprus

Şebnem Önal Hoşkara,

EMU Faculty of Architecture, North Cyprus

Mukaddes Faslı,

EMU Faculty of Architecture, North Cyprus


Historic urban quarters are special places not only due to the cultural heritage that they house but also due to their urban pattern. Many such quarters are in danger of losing their traditional character, if relevant measures are not put in place to ensure the continuity of this character. This paper proposes a new method – based on SWOT analysis – for assessing / identifying the key criteria of historic urban quarters and from its findings derives an appropriate revitalization strategy. In order to illustrate the implication of the new proposed methodology, thus, to check its validity and to see how it works empirically, the paper uses the Walled City of Nicosia in Cyprus as a case study.

KEY WORDS: Revitalization of historic urban quarters, strategic planning, SWOT analysis, the Walled City of Nicosia – Cyprus.


As it is widely accepted throughout the world, historic urban quarters have a special place in the cultural and historical heritage of any country. As they are coherent entities, they are clearly identified by their traditional character and architectural value. Historic urban quarters in many towns sit on all continents, and reflect the accomplishments of a significant cross section of the globe’s cultures. Some represent the efforts of indigenous cultures; others the impact of exported or colonial era activity. All mingle their diverse influences in creative fashion to create unique forms and patterns of use.

Not only these values and attributes, but also their values as a capital stock, make the historic urban quarters worthy of conservation. The quality and value of these special areas was often not appreciated until the 1960’s. Until then, individual buildings, structures and other artifacts were subject to “preservation”. It is only after 1960’s that, historic urban quarters were re-evaluated with respect to their positive qualities and revitalization of these areas as functioning parts of their cities became very popular throughout the world. Today, the rationale underpinning the phenomenon of historic urban quarter’s revitalization and the global diffusion of this phenomenon is widely recognized if not wholly understood.

As stated by Tiesdell et al., historic urban quarters are part of an economic dynamism; they are rarely autonomous functioning zones and usually have a symbiotic relationship with the rest of the city. They must therefore be considered within the context of the city as a whole and their conservation has to be considered not as a straightforward and restrictive concern with preservation but as a concern with revitalization and enhancement (Tiesdell et al., 1996, p.22).

The process of revitalizing historic urban quarters involves the integration of the historic legacy, inheritance and sense of place with the demands of contemporary economic, political and social conditions. Accordingly, revitalization can be defined, in its simplest form, as a “process through which the deterioration and decay of a historic urban quarter can be addressed to, terminated or reversed” (Doratlı, N., 2000, p.32). This process is a complex issue that has to be approached from many different perspectives since it should involve social and economic dimensions rather than purely physical protection and enhancement measures in a long-term perspective. Such a process calls for a joined-up thinking to relate conservation area objectives to the consideration of physical quality, social viability, economic vitality and the wider concern for sustainability, which demands the rapid, efficient and focused conversion of new knowledge into socially, economically and environmentally acceptable solutions.

It is difficult to apply this philosophy of revitalization through utilizing conventional planning approaches for conservation, since they mainly deal with more or less technical-scientific questions concerning material aspects of cultural property and their straight forward protection. In addition to this, Rowley (1997, p.36) states that “…conventional planning approaches tend to be oriented toward looking at problems based on current understanding, or an inside-out mind set; whereas strategic planning requires an understanding of the nature of the issue, and then of an appropriate response, or an outside-in mind set.” According to Zapryagaev (1999, p.3), strategic planning tends to be idea driven, more qualitative; it seeks to provide a clear vision / focus. Criticizing the conventional conservation process, Bold and Guillery point out that it is geared to site specific recording, protection and regulation, rather than the overall assessment of an historic area (Griffith, M. & Romaya, S., 2000)

Based on these arguments, it can be stated that only through employment of strategic planning approaches it would be possible to develop an understanding and vision across a whole range of social, environmental, economic issues that go far beyond conventional approaches, taking a comprehensive and integrated approach over long time horizons. The underlying intention of a strategic approach is to identify what is valuable in an historic urban quarter - qualities that should be protected and enhanced; and along with identifying these qualities, to determine where detractors could be removed or mitigated and to identify where opportunities lie for enhancement.

Burton et al. (2002, p.1465) state that the popular SWOT model forms the basis for virtually all formalized strategy formulation processes. A tool of situation analysis, SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) is used in the preliminary stage of strategic decision-making [Johnson et al 1989] where it provides the basic framework for strategic analysis. According to different authors, the objective of SWOT is to recommend strategies that ensure best alignment between the external environment and internal situation (Andrews, 1980; Christensen et al., 1982 in Mintzberg, 1994; Hax & Majluf, 1996; Hill & Jones, 1992). Hence, SWOT analysis, can be considered as a useful tool that has to be utilized as a technique that conveys to the achievement of the intention of a strategic approach for conservation and revitalization of historic urban quarters; since SWOT analysis method would convey to a contextual understanding of the historic environment, which is a prerequisite of a strategic approach.

However, considering the original SWOT analysis and the one, which has been utilized by Moughtin for the assessment of the built environment to be too broad, the authors feel that in addition to – as complementary to – Moughtin’s SWOT approach, an interpreted version of the SWOT method with regard to the place assets (values), the processes acting on these assets (obsolescence and intensities of development pressures) would be much more convenient for the determination of the strategic approach for revitalization of historic urban quarters.

Thus, the aim of this paper is, first, to propose a new method of analysis - a new interpretation of the SWOT analysis, which would lead to a more organized and compact set of data that can convey to the identification of the most appropriate strategy for revitalization. This method will then be illustrated in a case study: The northern part of the Walled City of Nicosiai, on the island of Cyprus, which will be followed by a critical evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of this newly interpreted method.


Tiesdell, et al., (1996, p.20) argue that the revitalizing historic urban quarters “.. involves both the renewal of the physical fabric and the active economic use- or utilization- of buildings and spaces. Accordingly, there is a need for both physical and economic revitalization. One may prefigure the other, for example, a cosmetic or ‘physical’ revitalization may be a short-term strategy intended to induce a deeper ‘economic’ revitalization in the longer term. A physical revitalization can result in an attractive, well-maintained public realm. However, in the longer term, economic revitalization is required because ultimately it is the productive utilization of the private realm which pays for the maintenance of the public realm.” Depending on their inherent qualities as well as local physical, socio-economic conditions, different comprehensive approaches, in other words different strategies - restructuring the economic base, regeneration, functional diversification- should be engaged in the revitalization processes of historic urban quarters (Doratlı, 2000).

In historic urban quarters, the necessity of integrating the various exigencies of conservation and revitalization, of balancing economic development while respecting environmental quality, is particularly challenging. Tiesdell’s argument therefore, underpins three contextual attributes within this definition of ‘revitalization’: place assets, obsolescence, and intensities of development pressures.

Examination of many implementations of revitalization projects in historic urban quarters through literature survey shows that success of these projects highly related to the employment of the most appropriate strategic approach, which rests upon accurate identification of these three attributes (Doratlı, 2000). Hence, at the analysis stage of any planning study, identification of the three attributes should be given a special emphasis. It can be claimed that the SWOT analysis, which will be targeted to these attributes would be a help to increase the chance of the accurate determination of the most appropriate strategic approach. Based on this argument, these attributed will briefly be overviewed to provide a basis for the new interpretation of the SWOT analysis:

Place assets – values / qualities that make the areas worth to be preserved and revitalized

A historic urban core possesses a mix of assets that offers a variety of possibilities for defining its identity and finds its definition in its buildings, streets, squares and people. In traditional urban environments, urban cores show the most successful qualities of a well-defined urban fabric, architectural unity, order and visual continuity. Traditional urban quarters may embrace:

  • Cultural identity value: including age, tradition, continuity, political and national values;

  • Scarcity value: resulting from, for example, typology, form, period of construction, design of buildings in the area/quarter, which makes them unique assets when compared with recently built ones;

  • Resource value: due to the fact that they house a certain amount of existing housing stock, which can also be considered as an economic issue.

Obsolescence – factors / process contributing to deterioration and decay

Considering the deterioration and decay process under which most of the historic areas suffer, obsolescence is the underlying concept, which can be defined as “the mismatch between the services offered by the fabric and the contemporary needs” (Lichtfield, 1988). Based on this argument, obsolescence can be considered to be a process through which most of the problems of traditional urban quarters are being generated. The area may suffer (under) different types of obsolescence:

Physical/structural obsolescence: The traditional buildings would be subject to physical/ structural deterioration, which leads to obsolescence. This may occur through different factors: the effects of time, the weather, earth movement, traffic vibration, poor maintenance, which result in the deterioration of building fabric. Obsolescence of this nature is likely to be -at least initially- gradual (Tiesdell et al., 1996, p.23).

Functional obsolescence: Obsolescence of this type arises due to the functional characteristics of the building / area. Due to its design and the constraints of its fabric, the building may fail to meet the contemporary standards and requirement of the user/ potential user. Inadequacy of a building may range from a lack of sanitary fittings in good conditions and spaces to a lack of central heating, air conditioning and other contemporary facilities.

Locational obsolescence: This type of obsolescence is primarily an attribute of the functional activities within the area. When the building was originally built, its location was determined in terms of accessibility to other uses, markets, and suppliers, transportation infrastructure and a like, but over time the location may become unfavorable or obsolete for the activities, for which the building was constructed (Tiesdell et al., 1996, p.25). Examining a plenty of examples indicates that, the locational obsolescence can be identified through the analysis of the changes in terms of ownership pattern, changes in social composition, land and property values, rate of rents, vacancy rates, incompatible uses, type and amount of new development.

Beside these most basic types of obsolescence, it is also possible to consider other forms of obsolescence:

Image obsolescence - related to the perception of a building or an area. Uncomfortable traffic circulation; noise; smell; vibration in old quarters, which make them unattractive.

Official / legal obsolescence - related to physical and functional dimensions. Restrictions may render buildings obsolete; or in an area, which is declared as ‘conservation zone’, the absence of financial incentives may reduce the willingness of property owners to restore and rehabilitate their property. This, in turn, reinforces official obsolescence.

Intensities of development pressures - factors provoking physical change

In addition to obsolescence, depending on the economic pressure for development on the area, an historic urban area may face different intensities of development pressure. These might be considered to be “high”, “static” or “declining”. Intensities of development pressures are highly interrelated with obsolescence and it is one of the key issues in the deterioration process that an area is faced with the possible solutions/proposals to address this process. Physical and functional obsolescence diminish the competitiveness of an historic urban quarter against newly developing districts, and accordingly intensities of development pressure in the area approaches static or declining states. Or, alternatively, the flight of inhabitants and uses from an historic urban quarter under a static or declining state of development pressure accelerate physical and functional obsolescence, and give rise to other types of obsolescence.

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