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Cyprus’ novel decision for big projects March 13, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Cyprus.

The Cyprus Government has taken a novel decision in giving the entire project for the establishment of a large-scale Cultural Centre to an independent foundation.

The Centre will be located in the part of Nicosia across the road from where the new Finance Ministry building now stands, in the area where the new House of Representatives, the State Theatre and State Art Gallery will be built. The idea is to create a cultural zone in the centre of the capital that would act as a focal point for visitors and residents.

The Centre would feature two concert halls, one with 1,400-seat capacity for concerts, ballet and opera and a 500-seater for smaller musical events, as well as an open air auditorium for big concerts; it will have all the facilities and state-of-the-art equipment of a modern concert hall. Most importantly, it will be designed by an architect of world repute. Some 60 architectural offices entered the competition for the Centre and eight were short-listed for examination by a jury consisting of well-known architects as well as concert hall directors.

This is probably one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken in Cyprus and although the 80 million euros cost would be financed primarily by the government, some EU funds might also be secured and there are plans to secure sponsorship, it will not be managed by the state but by the Cyprus Cultural Foundation (CCF). The Foundation, under the chairmanship of the former executive chairman of Laiki Bank, Kikis Lazarides, a leading businessman with experience of big projects, will manage all facets of the project and administer it when it is completed.

After the unmitigated disaster of the Nicosia General Hospital, which cost the taxpayer almost three times as much as originally planned and whose completion was delayed for years, President Papadopoulos quite rightly decided that the project should not be handled by civil servants, as had been case for the hospital. Not only do they lack the experience and know-how to manage a big project, but most civil servants have no knowledge of the business world, which is essential. What’s more the public sector suffers from very slow decision-making process, with everything having to go through a variety of committees and government departments.

The difference of giving such a project to an independent foundation, which is not subject to bureaucratic procedures and is run by people with business experience, rather than by civil servants, is already becoming apparent. The CCF has achieved in a few months what the state would have needed a couple of years to do and it has also secured the services of a range of experts who will provide invaluable advice, the design competition is already in its final phase. There will also be much better management of the finances and tighter control of the contractors.

This is undoubtedly the way forward for big state projects, which the state sector does not have the flexibility to manage with any degree of competence. The President was absolutely right in giving Cultural Centre project to the private sector.

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