Urban Design

Rethought Garden Spaces

Gżira, Malta
2019 - Current

The extensive redesign of the Gzira’s public garden, Gnien il-Kunsill ta’ l-Ewropa, is part of a masterplan for the holistic redesign of Gzira Gardens, further including the development of a new marina with reorganised berths; the creation of a new safe and stimulating public promenade; the redesign of the existing parking area; and the introduction of ancillary marina facilities and public amenities. The masterplan seeks to strike a balance between public and private interests, ensuring the security and efficient overall running of the marina’s operations while creating an opportunity for place-making, via a high-quality, green, public urban environment that is structured by a well-connected, articulated and safe network of spaces and interfaces.

The design proposal of this public garden is intended to provide an access-for-all, safe, green park, further intensifying it as an important green lung within a highly urbanised area, designed around the existing mature trees. The current garden is characterised by unarticulated areas, public paths some of which are over dimensioned transition spaces that do not encourage people to stay within them, and street furniture elements that are in need of upgrade and redesign. While the potential users of the space are numerous, the current garden does not adequately provide for their different needs and aspirations, lacking in distinctive character areas that would otherwise provide individual users with different experiences and incentivise them to revisit the garden on other occasions.

The envisaged plan seeks to create different pockets of activity and a network of paths that allows for the garden’s enjoyment by diverse users. The paths are based on the existing garden’s structure, supplemented by new paths and visual links that have been derived from the existing desire lines that tie in with the inner urban fabric of Gzira. In this manner, the garden space becomes an extension of Gzira’s public street network thereby resulting in a stronger connection between the two. The design focuses on retaining a strong green element within the public space, capitalising on the garden element that contributes to the reduction of the heat island by increasing evapotranspiration and that creates different permeable areas that help to reduce flooding within the area. In this manner, too, the various elements of green infrastructure are intended to provide an opportunity to support ecosystem services and biodiversity within the locality of Gzira.

The design process has seen the active involvement of the Gzira Local Council and residents, through the organisation of a public participatory workshop, actively promoted through the council’s channels, and an open invitation for residents to submit their concerns, wishes and ideas, which were given due consideration. The design has also been amply discussed with expert botanists and landscape and urban designers brought in by the Local Council.

This project was awarded a Special Commendation for the best Urban Planning Concept at the MASP Awards 2020 organised by the Planning Authority.