A liveable city / Valletta masterplan
location: valletta, malta
developed in collaboration with Richard Rees Consultancy | London, UK
year: 2014 – current
Our urban strategy for Valletta focuses on what works in the City – successful places, active frontages, important connection points, existing built and unbuilt assets – together with recent and ongoing interventions and the critical social enclaves that need to be urgently addressed. The two most recent interventions, the Valletta’s City Gate and Fort St. Elmo projects, lie at either end of the main longitudinal axis, Republic Street. Our research has revealed a significant imbalance between Valletta’s western and eastern flanks, in terms of existing successful spaces and opportunities. This leads us to identify the need for better connections, in terms of supporting longitudinal connections commencing from Strait Street and Merchant Street on either flank; and key transversal connections, which are required to stitch these two flanks together more cohesively. To this effect, we focus on St. John Street as the main transversal axis linking the two ferry points and St. Christopher Street to knit in the western and eastern social enclaves together. We propose to further reinforce this network by capitalising on existing green assets and open spaces, particularly focusing on two important ‘green’ enclaves at either end of the peninsula. We feel that these may transform the Valletta City Gate and St Elmo projects into urban catalysts that reach out to the surrounding areas. The open space apron lying in front of Fort St. Elmo provides the potential to tie the lower residential communities with the rest of the urban fabric and the Fort’s envisaged interventions, opening them up to the residents. At the upper end, the opportunity to formalise the current disjointed green assets in Floriana and the entrance to the City could create another enclave beyond its gate.
Within this broader context come the individual city block interventions. We feel that the city blocks are well defined in their centre and they can be an element of study for development, providing opportunity for such centres to become ‘start up’ interventions and change instigators. The spaces between the houses in the blocks can be a catalyst for change, with an opportunity to open up the design of the blocks to new layouts and uses. Several blocks should be targeted as exemplars for change, and we propose that as a start these should be primarily concentrated along the supporting longitudinal and transversal axes identified above, notably Strait Street and St Christopher Street, to strengthen further the City’s western flank.
Furthermore, the roofscape of these city blocks is a hidden and unknown world that could provide two levels of new accommodation, gardens, recreational space, and energy generation that could transform the economic value of each block without damaging the overall profile of the World Heritage setting. We envisage a future for these blocks as self-sustaining environmental units. In some cases, particularly along St Christopher Street, we could breach through the city block in order to ‘open up’ the inner semi-private courtyards. By opening some of them up these courtyards become an important environmental system with the streets that flank them, facilitating the movement of hot air upwards and providing temperate spaces for the residents throughout the hot summer months.