Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat

The White Walls, Nicosia
Featured January 2017
The White Walls was recognized as the "Best Tall Building Europe" Winner in the 2016 CTBUH Awards Program.
Other Featured Tall Buildings
“The White Walls is a radical exercise in materiality, serving as an expression of the architectural and environmental values of the Mediterranean across the vertical axis.”
Karl Fender, Jury Chair, Fender Katsalidis

Completion Date:
70 m (228 ft)
10,000 sq m (107,639 sq ft)
Primary Functions:
Residential / Office
Nice Day Developments Ltd

Ateliers Jean Nouvel (design); Takis Sophocleous Architects (architect of record)

Structural Engineers:
KAL Engineering
MEP Engineer:
Mitsides, Samuel and Partners
Main Contractor:
Lois Builders
Other Consultants:
Nicolaou & Konnides (Quantity Surveyor)

The White Walls – described by the jury as elegant, bright, and airy – is a unique addition to a city that has not yet embraced the high-rise condition. Its potential impact on such a location is softened through the careful consideration of the city, its climate, and the people it will accommodate. The resulting tower provides a high level of amenities for residents, carefully balanced against a need to fit within a historic Mediterranean environment.
The tower blends indoor and outdoor spaces to a degree never before seen in a high-rise. The loggias found in each unit essentially open up an entire wall to a series of outdoor garden balconies. In a sense, this type of access is more reminiscent of a single-family home than a residential high-rise. These unique conditions are perhaps more easily obtainable in the specific environment and context of Nicosia, yet their successful distillation into a highly liveable structure suggest a blueprint for future high-rise development that embraces greater interplay between indoor and outdoor space.

Set within the historic center of Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus, The White Walls has single-handedly transformed the urban silhouette of the city, drawing upon its context to deliver a tower that is unmistakably Mediterranean, yet globally influential with its highly successful environmental considerations. The tower’s program includes 10 floors of residential apartments, a six-story office space, and two floors of retail at the base. Sited just south of the Venetian Walls, which were built as defensive structures in the 16th century and define the historic district of the city, the tower offers a massing that relates to the horizontal context of the nearby fortifications while setting the stage for a series of inversions that are characteristic of the building.

For a small island country like Cyprus, high-rise urban living is a decidedly preferable alternative to suburban sprawl as it preserves precious farmland and reduces the need for horizontal infrastructure and transportation systems. However, the dismal track record of energy performance for residential high-rises was seen as a central challenge for The White Walls, one that was met with a series of innovative solutions that incorporated native vegetation and a highly permeable façade.

South façade greenery
Punctured by a seemingly random array of openings – sometimes glazed, sometimes left open – the massiveness of the tower’s walls is negated by numerous square perforations. Interesting shadow play determines how exterior and interior spaces are perceived in relation to varying sun positions throughout the day. At night, the 0.4-meter by 0.4-meter (1.3-feet by 1.3-feet) voids and windows are randomly illuminated, as determined by interior lighting conditions. The resulting effect imparts a visual impact that remains similarly in flux throughout the evening.
West façade showing external elevator

The tower’s principle external feature takes the form of a vertical landscape that covers approximately 80 percent of the southern façade. This layer of vegetation functions as a natural “brise soleil,” providing sun control during the summer, while admitting a maximum amount of sunlight in the winter. This living façade supports a variety of climbing and reaching Cyprian plant species that continually transform with the cyclic movements of the seasons. In addition to the greenery along the southern façade, 40 small gardens are interspersed throughout the east and west elevations, their vegetation bursting from within the punctured concrete walls. An automated irrigation system ensures that the gardens are maintained throughout the year with relatively minimal effort required from residents and building staff.

The greenery continues at the base of the building in the form of several 400-year-old olive trees that create a contiguous link to an adjacent urban park and establish a visual connection with the historic scenery of the city.

Every unit in the building features an indoor/outdoor loggia that extends the living space outside to take maximum advantage of Nicosia’s temperate climate and acknowledge the importance within the local culture of spending time outside. Located on the north façade, the loggias provide views of the nearby park and the city skyline. On the east and west façade, they retract inward from the pixelated concrete walls to protect residents and office occupants from noise, wind, and sunlight.

Typical section
Interior garden
Rooftop terrace
A private two-story penthouse occupies the uppermost floors of the tower, incorporating a rooftop terrace that takes the utmost advantage of its solar conditions and height. Stairs leading up to the roof are sheathed by a glass enclosure linking the two top-floor bedrooms. The remaining floor space is dedicated to a large outdoor terrace complete with swimming pool and lounging area. This configuration, and the open format of the tower’s residential units, is partly the result of pushing elevator services to the edges of the floor plates, with elevator cabs located on the exterior of the building in narrow slots on the east and west façades.

Taken together, The White Walls naturally steers the regional conversation to the city’s destiny and how each new development can contribute toward realizing it. Where and how should new towers be built, and what qualities of life can be expected from them? The White Walls’ design addresses these questions, while introducing technical innovations in the design of concrete structures and capturing a poetic and optimistic outlook on life.

Related Links
CTBUH Skyscraper Center Profile:
The White Walls

The White Walls
was recognized as the Winner of "Best Tall Building Europe" in the 2016 CTBUH Awards Program.

CTBUH 2016 Awards Book