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‘Economy And Greed Have Taken Over’: Hopeful Architecture Students Push For A Better Malta In Spazju Kreattiv Expo

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Today’s generation of architecture students are showcasing their innovative projects at Spazju Kreattiv, with the hopes that Malta’s architectural future will be different from the country’s current reality.

Eighty-two projects from architecture students in every year, from the beginner years to the advanced final-year students, are being exhibited in the Architecture Students EXPO at Spazju Kreattiv throughout October.

Gabriel Bonavia and Isaiah Riolo from architecture students organisation SACES gave Lovin Malta a private tour, saying it’s the most significant event in their calendar. “We actually get to give back to the community,” first-year student Gabriel said.

And it is clear that these architects-to-be have big ideas and ambitions.

The role of the expo has changed over time, Gabriel said. “It used to showcase a year’s worth of work, but today it promises a better future. There is a lot of young talent that wants to make a change.”

That is why SACES chose to expose the work at Spazju Kreattiv. “Spazju is amazing as it has the general public coming in, as well as architects who visit after their shifts in their Valletta offices.”

The architecture course takes you into one of two directions: engineering or design. An essential but less popularly studied topic is urban planning and design.

“Malta is basically one big urban area,” Isaiah said. “It should be planned as such, but it wasn’t. We didn’t give it enough importance and are only realising this now.”

“We can’t have the same blocks on top of each other –  we need to be more thoughtful with what we’re doing.”

“Locally, we tend to disregard context and the social aspects. We’re at a stage where economy and greed have taken over,” Gabriel added.

The course allows and encourages students to think creatively and out of the box. “We’re not trying to build boxes on boxes on boxes. We’re pushed to create something that’s going to make a better Malta,” Gabriel said.

At university, the future architects are taught not to be restricted – but in the later years, more and more regulations need to be considered. “This, for me, is the opportunity to experiment and explore – you’re not going to do that in the ‘real world’.”

Isaiah adds that they learn about Malta as it currently is, and how to do better. “Upcoming architects are definitely part of the solution and a greater vision.”

“As the generations of architects grow and mature, the new graduates step into the real world and begin shifting the current mentality, but we need to realise this is a slow process and change cannot happen overnight.”

Besides being hopeful, they remain realistic about their own future. “Now is the time for young creatives to think and innovate,” Gabriel said. “Unfortunately, in the real world it’s a different story.”

It doesn’t help that the industry is never associated with positive news. “But there also isn’t that much that’s giving us a reason to be positive,” Gabriel jokes.

Isaiah explains why. “It’s always about finding the right balance, especially when you are so densely populated.”

“There’s never been a long term masterplan. Malta should be planned like a small city, but we’re planned like a bunch of tinier cities. The villages all gradually fade into each other, and where they meet it’s an infrastructural mess.”

With both hopeful optimism and a healthy dose of realism, the students are well on their way to become full-fledged architects.

You can visit the Architecture Student EXPO 2021 at Spazju Kreattiv free of charge till 30th October.

What do you think of Malta’s current architectural environment?

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Belle dives deep into seas and stories. She’s passionate about mental health, environmental sustainability and social justice. When she’s not out and about with her dog, she’s more than happy to hear from you.

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