For this week’s article, our writers take a stroll around Mellieha to look out for local developments that are currently underway, have been carried out recently or leave a mark due to their uniqueness. This time around, we are looking at changes to the town’s main street, Triq il-Kbira and Triq Gorg Borg Olivier. 

We start our list with the developments our eyes didn’t agree with, and then move on to developments that, in our opinion, fare a bit better. 

P.S: Yes, we are critical sometimes, but we try to stay constructive! We’ve also attempted to come up with solutions.

It doesn’t take a statistician to tell us that development in Malta is booming. Look up at the horizon anywhere, and you’re guaranteed to find the silhouette of cranes towering over buildings, their sharp lines and angles looking fuzzy from the clouds of dust floating nearby. But our goal behind this article is not to insult cranes; (afterall, they may, at the rate we’re going, become our next national symbol).

Without further ado, here we go:

5th place, These apartments which totally blend in

 

OCD sufferers, beware. To the left side, we have an example of the traditional Maltese balcony. To the right, something that, if we’re being totally honest, defies verbal description. Why doesn’t Malta have an aesthetic board to take care of our streets?

It reminds us of our conversation with Lisa Gwen, curator of Maltadoors:

“In a lecture given by Edward Said at the University, I learned that at one point there was this effort for facades in different streets to look like one big palace but which were, at the same time, divided into different units. It showed a certain cohesion, collaboration, and unity between the homeowners. And more importantly, it allowed for symmetry and a high degree of aesthetic. This is the kind of aesthetic that created the idyllic streetscapes we get to photograph and enjoy today.

This is what I really want to see here. At least when it comes to highly visible places such as the seafront and promenades. Beautiful towns like Burano or Cinque Terre did not come about and are not maintained by accident.”

We have no idea what’s going on with the buildings in the picture below, but we’re quite certain that the newest block coming up (far right) is not going to make the apartments adjacent look any nicer.

It’s not the only example of disjointed transitions from one style to another within one street, but we need to keep this list brief, so let’s move on to number 4.

4th, The colour choice that made us ask questions

“How now brown cow!” Quick introduction to colour theory: Did you know different colours have different effects on our minds?

Painting a bedroom dark blue elicits feelings of cold and cool, red will make you feel warm and active and, apparently, adding orange to a kitchen may actually increase your appetite. Brown, in the right amount, and when evoked through the right materials, such as wood, promotes feelings of stability and security. When misused, it can make us feel alone, isolated, and sad. Consider, then, the dark brown apartments that reside atop the new Valyou supermarket located right at the entrance of Mellieha.

There’s something about the choice of colour palette for these apartments that makes you feel like it’s still a digital 3D model, made by a designer who’s never stepped foot in the area.

The building’s design is so inconsistent with the rest of its surroundings that it becomes one big eyesore, and an unfortunate one at that considering its proximity to the entrance of the town. While it bears little resemblance to the town’s original architecture, it does share one similar characteristic with them – no greenery. Not so much as a hanging container of flowers or an appropriately positioned area of soil for some vines to go crazy on the side of the building. Below, a look at what the building that was previously in its place (Belleview) looked like:

Would you look at that? A cypress tree! We’re not saying that the new building is necessarily ugly, but would it hurt to have the neutralising advantages of greenery? I’d even prefer an outdoor supermarket so long as it was surrounded with the stuff that’s basically giving me the oxygen I breathe. 

3rd, The villas we haved mixed feelings about

Up until a few years ago, there were still a number of areas in the main street of Mellieha that were simply patches of uncultivated greenery and agricultural land, where you’d frequently see dog-owners taking their pets to do their daily business. All of this land has been used up to build the villas. We’re not saying down with villas – they can be wonderful to see. What we lament here are two things,

  1. the lack of effort to cultivate a green aesthetic; nowadays plants, herbs and vegetables can be grown anywhere, from the walls to your rooftop. Our point is: If you can build a villa, you can green it up!
  2. By developing every unbuilt patch, the main street has ended up with absolutely no open land, creating an atmosphere that makes you feel boxed in and insulated. 

There’s some open land next to the supermarket; however, this has now been escavated in preparation for the building of an eight-storey hotel. Considering this project’s proximity to the town’s entrance, we’re not sure how to feel about it.

It’s not that the patches of unbuilt land were of much use to anyone; as such, they were just loaded with overgrown weeds. The real problem is that there is little variation to how we choose to fill the empty spaces, and to healthy evolution, diversity is key. At least one of the unbuilt areas could have been turned into a park, an urban garden, or if you must build  up, a theatre or cultural centre.

3rd, The villas we haved mixed feelings about

Up until a few years ago, there were still a number of areas in the main street of Mellieha that were simply patches of uncultivated greenery and agricultural land, where you’d frequently see dog-owners taking their pets to do their daily business. All of this land has been used up to build the villas. We’re not saying down with villas – they can be wonderful to see. What we lament here are two things,

  1. the lack of effort to cultivate a green aesthetic; nowadays plants, herbs and vegetables can be grown anywhere, from the walls to your rooftop. Our point is: If you can build a villa, you can green it up!
  2. By developing every unbuilt patch, the main street has ended up with absolutely no open land, creating an atmosphere that makes you feel boxed in and insulated. 

There’s some open land next to the supermarket; however, this has now been escavated in preparation for the building of an eight-storey hotel. Considering this project’s proximity to the town’s entrance, we’re not sure how to feel about it.

It’s not that the patches of unbuilt land were of much use to anyone; as such, they were just loaded with overgrown weeds. The real problem is that there is little variation to how we choose to fill the empty spaces, and to healthy evolution, diversity is key. At least one of the unbuilt areas could have been turned into a park, an urban garden, or if you must build  up, a theatre or cultural centre.

In second place, the open space that forgot about Malta’s weather

I want to be fair here, so I’ll start by saying that the new courtyard is clearly designed to maintain the cultural integrity of the place, and that deserves points. 

This place is pristine, but maybe a little too pristine. Take a walk around during any of the afternoon hours and the sunlight will hurt your eyes whether you look up at the sky or down at the ground. I have fond memories of going to the small Sanctuary located beneath the Mellieha church. But it was very different back then, between the late ‘90s and early ‘00s. The area to the right-hand side of the picture, where all those benches are situated, was, pre-restoration, completely covered in large trees, giving shade to parked cars (as well as a heavy dose of bird poop) and anyone walking by. 

There’s been many protests against the removal of old trees due to their importance to our air quality, so we won’t go there. What we want to focus on here is this: If you’re going to have an open space, the architecture and design must take into account the weather. Malta, with its weather and high activity, needs natural barriers and shelters in its open spaces.

Why would anyone take very old trees that give shade and replace them with benches… if said benches become unusable without their shade? Are we assuming that anyone strolling along this courtyard would only be doing so at night? 

Despite this, I’ve awarded second place to this area. Despite the glaring environmental loss and it being virtually unusable during the day, this place is beautiful. My childhood nostalgia for unachievable goals like shade aside, the courtyard is pleasant and the photo definitely doesn’t do it justice.

First place, this house which reminds you that “Life, uh, finds a way.”

That’s what Jeff Goldblum’s character states in Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park (1993). And that’s also what immediately came to mind when I was driving home, believing that I had snapped all the (albeit depressing) photos I’d need to complete this article. Desperate to return to my own little idyllic paradise and continue in my reclusive ways, I intentionally made one heck of a U-turn just to snap a picture of this, located as one descends further into the Mellieha village.

What does it say about the architectural state of Malta that the entrance to an abandoned house, an old vandalised door, and a wall completely reclaimed by orange bell flowers are far more appealing than whatever new block of apartments burdens our streets? A local resident who saw me taking the photo even spoke to me and agreed with how lovely it looks. I noted a degree of sadness in her voice; she also agreed with my opinion of Mellieha’s overdevelopment. 

Final thoughts

Some – including the editor of House Malta – may think that this article is too ‘anti-development’ leaning. I don’t mind development, but only when development makes a place better. 

That doesn’t mean we should go around demolishing more buildings. What we’re saying is hire a local designer and you’ll have a reservoir of ideas. And if you don’t have the time for big plans yet, remember that greenery helps!

With a good designer on their side, the willingness to go the extra mile, and the right incentives from our government, developers can complement the gems we already have with architectural projects that invite curiosity and excitement, not dread and protests.

Do you agree with the way we’ve rated these developments? Did we miss any new developments currently underway in Mellieha? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Our team at House Malta is always on the look-out for spaces, places, and things that are being built up, torn down, modernised, restored, or re-purposed – be it by a big team or a one-man(or woman)-army.

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