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‘We’re Delighted!’: AP Valletta Gearing Up For Potential Big Win After Shortlisted For Innovative EU Prize

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A creative architectural firm known for turning Valletta into their living laboratory may be approaching a major win after being shortlisted for the Ilucidare Special Prizes.

Nominated for the Heritage-led Innovation Category at the awards, which are part of the European Heritage and Europa Nostra Awards, AP Valletta now face off against three other firms – two Italian and one Belgian.

Ahead of the results, AP Valletta’s executive director Konrad Buhagiar spoke to Lovin Malta about what it means to get this international recognition, how AP is leaving it’s mark on the island and how Valletta’s fast-changing face is a good thing.

One of AP's most celebrated works at the Phoenicia Hotel

One of AP's most celebrated works at the Phoenicia Hotel

“Since the very beginning, back in 1991, AP’s carried out works across Valletta.”

The firm, hidden away on Sappers Street in the island’s capital city, has had a hand in some of the most important and eye-catching projects on the island.

Their impact can be seen everywhere from St John’s Co-Cathedral to Dock No.1 in Cottonera – but for Buhagiar, there’s pride in knowing their narrative-producing work is being recognised for what it is.

AP's Konrad Buhagiar

AP's Konrad Buhagiar

“We were delighted to be recognised for the projects in the capital city, and with the nomination of course,” Buhagiar said.

“We were especially happy with the words of the jury – which explain the unusual nomination of the practice rather than a single project: ‘Its work is rooted in the theoretical principle that heritage is not static but rather in constant evolution. The firm has made Valletta into their living lab for testing new heritage ideas’.”

While Valletta may be an attractive city both locally and internationally in 2021, it wasn’t always this way. 

“I remember what Valletta was like a couple of decades ago when walking in the empty streets was almost daunting,” he said. “Today the city is alive, a cultural hub for locals and foreigners. All of this thanks to the work of numerous entities, the Government, the Local Council and the private sector.”

Though there’s been major evolution and development across the capital, AP’s work is far from over.

“We are currently working with the St John’s Museum Foundation on the extension of the Cathedral Museum, the Save the Valletta Skyline Foundation on the restoration of the steeple of the Anglican Cathedral and with the National Book Council for a new Museum of Literature,” he said.

“All organisations have been working tirelessly in spite of tremendous setbacks including the current pandemic and it is thanks to these inspired players, and others that our work can breathe new life into the city.”

Though there’s still an open discussion as to what the Maltese public think Valletta should be, Buhagiar is clear in AP’s vision.

“Valletta is not being restored merely as a beautiful relic of the past but, rather as a living organism that has the creative energy necessary to guarantee continuity with the work of our forebears and engender the heritage of tomorrow,” he emphasised.

“It is this fascinating overlap of conservation and innovation that the reward is supporting.”

AP Valletta had been nominated by the Valletta Local Council, with Alfred Zammit, the mayor of Valletta, praising the group for their focus on heritage in their designs.

“The Valletta Local Council has enjoyed working with AP Valletta,” he said. “Despite the aggressive construction industry that constantly causes changes in the landscape with the death of old structures and the birth of new ones, AP Valletta makes an effort to ensure, above all, the survival of that which has intrinsic value and contributes to the well‐being of society, by forming part of its heritage and creating its identity.”

As the only firm that was shortlisted for the awards – the other three are specific projects – AP is hopeful for a positive result later this month.

Ahead of the big reveal, you can check out all the nominees below:

The nine shortlisted projects for the Ilucidare Special Prizes 2021 are as follows:

Heritage-led innovation

  • 3D Reconstruction of Maison du Peuple − Horta Museum, Brussels, Belgium
  • AP Valletta, Malta
  • Basilica of Santa Croce, Lecce, Italy
  • HAP4MARBLE – Marble Conservation by Hydroxyapatite, Italy

Heritage-led international relation

  • Northern Lebanon Project, Italy/Lebanon
  • Preservation of the Wine Cellars of Negotinska Krajina, Serbia
  • Leather Painting Restoration in the Hall of the Kings of the Alhambra, Spain
  • Friends of Bryggen and the Bryggen Foundation, Bergen, Norway
  • EU-LAC Museums − Museums, Community & Sustainability in Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, United Kingdom

What is your favourite AP design? Let us know in the comments below 

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Johnathan is interested in the weird, wonderful, and sometimes dark realities late capitalist society forces upon us all. He also likes food and music. Follow him at @supreofficialmt on Instagram, and send him news, food and music stories at [email protected]

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