Plans to regenerate the public library area in Floriana aim to address the key question of how to inject new life into a space while restoring and enhancing its character, according to the entities behind the proposal.
The plan is to bring stakeholders together to apply for funding and make the regeneration project happen, said David Felice, executive director at AP Valletta, which is working on the project in collaboration with the National Book Council.
He asked: “How can we give books importance if even getting to the library is a nightmare?”
The pilot project stems from a collaborative agreement between the architecture practice and the Malta Chamber of Commerce to work on an extensive research platform, termed Building Futures.
It will explore how design, together with research, educational and economic measures, can shape the future of Malta’s built and unbuilt environment.
The library area is considered an example of a “fragile environment” – one of three types of space identified in the project that are representative of the country’s cultural, economic, social and environmental challenges.
This “fragile” category includes Urban Conservation Areas and their buffer zones; urban areas that are not protected by any policies and are suffering the most from haphazard development; and heritage environments that are lacking social and economic investment.
The Central Public Library Area Regeneration Proposal is being launched this week. It focuses on the “reinstatement of the historic thread linking the bastions with a reinvigorated green belt that would run through the site, connecting MICAS to Valletta via the library – at roof level”, said AP’s director of innovation Erica Giusta.
Expecting the government to do everything is a bad attitude
Other categories identified in Building Futures include living environments. A potential pilot project for this typology is the regeneration of the Hastings area in Valletta. The scheme prioritises pedestrians over cars, contributing to the creation of new green public spaces and to the regeneration of heritage.
Another category, productive environments, would focus on disused industrial areas, which could be repurposed for more sustainable ways of production while preserving this form of heritage.
Sparked by the need to identify tangible solutions to climate change, the proposed Building Futures project combines AP’s knowledge and experience in research and design with the chamber’s commitment to develop a concrete vision for sustainable economic growth.
The question is: “How can we demonstrate ways in which a better built environment can be achieved in practice and monitor the effects of change?”
Pilot projects and case studies can be used to demonstrate how social, environmental and economic objectives for the built environment can be achieved in practice, Felice said.
Explaining the drive behind the collaboration, Felice, former Kamra tal-Periti president and V18 chairperson, maintained that the use of the buzzword ‘uglification’ is not enough and that expecting the government to do everything is a bad attitude.
“We need to recognise our responsibility and move on to action. This is what we have done, and we chose to partner with the research-based Malta Chamber, which is in a good place, and with which we can draw many parallels,” he said.
“I hope these projects can be exemplary to inspire others to do even better. I want us to start a cultural change.
“We need to break that wall which separates what is of economic value and what is aesthetic… they are not separate. Good buildings have high economic value and are also attractive,” he added.
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