Valletta: bridging vibrant progress and liveability
Urban and social changes in Valletta over the past few decades, especially in the last few years, have brought to the surface a number of issues that are directly affecting the liveability factor in Valletta.
Project leader and director of the Culture Directorate Caldon Mercieca has come up with an initiative to help create a common space for those who are new to Valletta and for those who have always calling the capital their home. Speaking to The Malta Independent on Sunday, Mr Mercieca said Design for the City is being organised by the Valletta Design Cluster in collaboration with the Valletta 2018 Foundation, Notte Bianca and design activists Urban Action from Berlin.
In order for the objectives of this project to be reached, Valletta Design Cluster will make the old slaughterhouse their design hub. As Mr Mercieca explained, work is already underway to transform the abattoir, which is already earmarked as a flagship project for Valletta 2018, into a design gallery with studios and meeting rooms.
“The objective behind this project is to co-design the experience of common and shared spaces in Valletta by building meaningful bridges with the community residents and regular users of these spaces. There is a reason why we wanted to use the biccerija as our focal point. We want the regeneration process to come from within the community that lives there and not impose it ourselves.”
To integrate and involve the local community as much as possible, Design for the City started the process with an informal meeting held in one of the narrow streets touching the abattoir.
“It was a well-attended meeting. Basically, it was a meeting without a particular agenda. We simply let the residents speak out and we explained what we had in mind.”
Pointing at a new phenomenon, Mr Mercieca said that the progress made and the huge steps taken to turn Valletta into a vibrant capital again are bearing fruit. However, they can have an adverse effect on the local population.
“There’s nothing wrong in investment and I am not criticizing the progress made. Bad thing happens when the new dynamic destroys the existing dynamic for the locals. Change is inevitable. But we don’t want that change to affect the locals in a bad way and sometimes I believe residents might not feel they are part of this progress.”
He mentioned how activities such as Notte Bianca literally lock some families living in Valletta inside the capital. “It’s an invasion of some sort. But it’s a pity that the locals don’t feel part of this new vibe, and this is why there needs to be an initiative such as Design in the City. But the project would not work if we put a design cluster in an alien area.”
Urban Action from Berlin will be holdding a three-day workshop with the aim of bringing together designers, architects and all those willing to pool in their ideas on how they would envision this particular area in Valletta.
“The aim behind this workshop is to brainstorm ideas. We want to re-imagine the scenario in Valletta.”
Eventually, once the workshop is complete, the ideas will then be put to the key partners, including the Valletta Local Council. As Mr Mercieca explained, the aim is for such workshops to expand to other localities. “I would like this to move on to other localities which might need an injection of ideas, namely Marsa or Hamrun. They are all experiencing a shift in demography and I believe that if we pool in some good ideas, things can get much better.”
Restoration works of the old slaughterhouse started last year. The whole site should be finished by 2018/19.
Valletta Design Cluster was originally intended to help the design sector, start-ups in particular, and any other form of design-related activity. “The Design Cluster was created to facilitate the contribution of the design sector to the Maltese economy and society in general.”
The Design in the City workshops will be concluded with an open air presentation which will feature in this year’s edition of Notte Bianca.