In defence of the Maltese terraced house

Urban planner Antoine Zammit wants to change the perception that the only value terraced houses in towns like Santa Luċija, San Gwann, Pembroke, Imtarfa and Ta’ Xbiex have is in their potential for redevelopment into apartment blocks.

Zammit does not romanticise the terraced house, but recognises its value in terms of liveability. The Maltese terraced house was influenced by the British “row house typology” formed by sequential plots, which are typically long and narrow. In local architecture this signified a shift from the courtyard model of older houses, to ones having a back yard, sometimes with a front garden, depending on how the surrounding streets were defined from a town planning point of view. Numerous houses built as part of the Home Ownership Schemes (HOS) and Building Development Areas (BDA) schemes, were built according to this model which prevailed from the 1960s until the 1990s.

The main merit of these rows of terraced houses, according to Zammit, lies in their “streetscape logic, rhythm, and proportion” especially in the proportion of height that works well with the proportion of the street, allowing sunlight penetration and natural light into the street. They are also characterised by a proportion that works well with the human scale and that humans can relate to.

So, there is merit in having a unified streetscape, characterised by a ‘diversity in unity’ – in which diverse architectural styles and aesthetics follow an overriding logic which ties them together.

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