Transport Minister Ian Borg has said Malta should “definitely” consider an electric redesign for its buses when the island comes to change the current fleet.
Borg described the designs proposed by London-based designer Jonathan Mizzi as “stupendous” and “phenomenal”, and said he was looking forward to studying the proposal further.
“I think the design, with those colours, is more beautiful than the static fleet we have today… The proposal I’m seeing brings back nostalgia with a futuristic vehicle,” he told Lovin Malta in an exclusive interview.
The buses proposal was the cover story of Lovin Tomorrow, a newspaper issued by Lovin Malta today to mark April Fools. The stories in the newspaper were all true – the prank was that Lovin Malta will not really be publishing a weekly newspaper and will instead stick to online news.
Watch the full interview with Transport Minister Ian Borg below
Mizzi, who runs the award-winning Mizzi Studio in London and Malta, is proposing a reimagining of the old buses, which would include digital tberfil (decorative hand-painting), a stunning rear, and lots of design details that pay homage to the past.
“I dream of seeing these beautiful electric buses brightening up our roads once again, inspiring national pride, nostalgia and sparking an emotional connection wherever they go,” Mizzi told Lovin Malta.
“I came up with this idea when I was stuck in traffic behind a non-descript Arriva bus and wondering where we went wrong”
Mizzi, 36, has received several international awards for his work in London, and was recently named FX International Breakthrough Talent 2017.
As a child, he loved the old buses and would think of them as Pixar characters, with human-like features. Despite being such a vibrant symbol of Malta, this element of our heritage disappeared in 2011.
“I came up with this idea when I was stuck in traffic behind a non-descript Arriva bus and wondering where we went wrong. Why did we get rid of such an important part of our history and heritage? Why rid tourists of that powerful memory? Why deprive our drivers of leaving their unique marks on their buses and lose the traditional art of tberfil? It made me sad, but it triggered an idea. In London, the red double-deckers were getting a modern revamp and I thought, why not give the same treatment to my own country’s buses? Why not bring the yellow icons back onto a new electric-powered fleet that can take us into the future?”
Mizzi and his team crafted an intricate design backed by technical expertise and a vision to move the island towards switching to an electric fleet to meet EU and national emissions targets and ultimately improve air quality
Mizzi, who was recently entrusted with designing the Royal Parks kiosks, including one overlooked by Buckingham Palace, believes his designs are timely and affordable because Malta will at some point have to start thinking of changing the current fleet of buses.
Mizzi began unveiling his artistic vision this week with a video teaser but also hopes to debut a short CGI-animated film produced by Stargate Studios Malta and a large-scale model to help spark a national discussion.
“I want the Maltese public to remember the aesthetic beauty of the old buses and join me on this visual journey of how the buses can be brought back in an exciting and innovative way. I hope it will enable us as a nation to move forward whilst staying true to ourselves and making us proud to be Maltese.”
His project already earned the support of Heritage Malta, Arts Council Malta and Mizzi Organisation, but in the last couple of days, even Malta Public Transport, Transport Malta and Transport Minister Ian Borg have come out to endorse the “phenomenal” designs.
“What made the classic buses so special is the fact that they were driver-owned”
“They each had an identity as unique as their owner since they were lovingly hand-painted and customised by local artists and by the owners themselves, with cultural and religious references of the time and charming phrases like ‘forever young’,” Mizzi continued.
Here’s what the designer had to say about this amazing idea:
“Our main challenge was to define the strongest characteristics from a bus fleet that was so bespoke. We looked carefully at the genetic makeup of the fleet and found there were several common features – just like siblings share within a family.
“Almost all the buses had a hooded visor set upon a split windscreen which gave them these ‘puppy-dog’-like framed eyes. We implemented the visor in our design but gave it a sleeker, more contemporary feel.
Another common feature was the rounded, hooded headlamps which gave the illusion of eyelids and eyelashes. They were almost like characters that had stepped out of a Pixar cartoon. We have recreated this anthropomorphic feature in the form of integrated chrome hooded headlamps.
All the buses had a big smiling chrome grill, adorned with many angel wing references symbolising flight and victory, that also stemmed from our deeply religious Catholic roots. We married these two features with functionality by adopting an elongated angel-wing form in the chrome grill at the front and a dual set of chrome ‘wings’ at the rear as mechanical ventilation.
The back of the new bus is almost a reflection of its old front. We created a face at the rear in the form of an abstract Maltese cross that frames a new pair of eyes creating a beautiful ‘derrière’ that vehicle drivers behind will directly lock eyes with.
Another key detail is the pinstriping, termed ‘tberfil’ in Maltese. To me, it’s the eyeliner and mascara that accentuate the buses’ features. We created a screen where we can showcase digital ‘tberfil’. This gives the bus drivers the freedom to make their bus their own again. Through LED technology, they can make it the ‘Saviour’ bus, the ‘Elvis Presley’ bus or the ‘Ave Maria’ bus again.
We also wanted to go back to the system they had in the 50s, where the colours denoted the route. Back then, this was implemented because of illiteracy, but people developed an emotional connection with the colours and their route home. The yellow buses dominated my generation, but for other generations the different colours breed nostalgia. Ultimately it is about creating a family fleet that people will love.
The new Malta bus transposes the beautiful design and vibrant character of the classic bus onto a modern-day chassis that is fully electric and emission-free. It will also include low disabled access, a middle door for hop on hop off and air-conditioning systems.
I hope will serve as an example of how Malta as a nation can move forward whilst always saying true to ourselves. There is simply no price you can put on our heritage.”