Val­letta: bridg­ing vi­brant progress and live­abil­ity

Malta Independent - - NEWS - Gabriel Schem­bri

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.

Cal­don Mer­cieca

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