Although it’s hard not to spend our lives bemoaning the cancerous overdevelopment of most of our precious island, there are a handful of architectural gems from our century that will have us wearing our smug face whenever our foreign friends are round for a visit.
Here’s a shortlist of contemporary buildings we can be proud of:
The Barrakka Lift
Architect: Architecture Project Valletta
Scooping up (deserved) awards and lots of inches in the international architectural press, this project has brought a new edginess to Valletta that we didn’t even know it needed. It is quite unlike any other structure on the island, bringing utilitarian sci-fi to the stoic bastions that encircle the city. It’s hyper-futuristic demeanour is paired so strangely, yet so perfectly, with the tranquility of the Upper Barrack Gardens.
St James Cavalier Centre for Creativity
Architect: Richard England
Although its been around for a while, St James Cavalier Centre for Creativity has withstood the test of time in terms of relevance and certainly in terms of delight. It’s full of surprises – from the awkward oversized green piping handrails in the main atrium, to the romantically framed staircase that leads visitors out towards Castille. Its auditorium is truly successful – appropriate in its scale for the nature of our national theatre scene, and certainly the most forward thinking performance space Malta has seen up to now (yes, that includes the renovated Opera House – sorry Renzo).
Architect: Forward Architects
A converted 70s building, db House is a rare example of simplicity and sheer good taste in residential design. Devoid of the latest residential facade ‘framing’ embellishment phenomenon, which seems to have taken over the island and needs to stop, this almost ten year old little gem has stood the test of time. It is contemporary mediterranean chic par excellence.
Strait Street Public Toilets
Architect: Chris Briffa Architects
Perhaps the most divisive project we’ve seen in recent years, this tiny building sent shockwaves through the Maltese public for displaying the words ‘vagina’ and ‘Virgin Mary’ in the same square metre. Scandal aside, this was a bold project for its unconventional materiality and foreboding palette. On the inside, the tactile experience of the space is less bathroom than it is submarine nightclub. It’s very strange. Good strange.
House of Four Winds (Bank of Valletta, Chairperson’s Office)
Architect: DeMicoli & Associates Architects
It’s safe to say that BOV had the last laugh when they moved into their new offices from their former site at the corner of Zachary Street to make way for the new entrance project in Valletta. The chairperson’s new office now lives in the House of Four Winds – a respectful, classy building that has made the conservation of its surrounding environs and views its top priority.
The New Parliament Building
Architect: Renzo Piano Building Workshop (Architecture Project Valletta, local partners)
An Instagram favourite, this building really does mean business. It talks about our aesthetic heritage as much as our potential to project ourselves to the world as a modern, beautiful and important place. And, well, that stone lattice facade…just, wow.