From hotels to squares, apartments to markets, we take an unfiltered look at the developments that have been changing Mellieħa. For this week’s article we put our reading glasses on, propped up the camera and applied copious sunblock – our mission? 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.
It doesn’t take a statistician to tell us that development in Malta is booming. Look up anywhere, and you’re guaranteed to find the silhouette of cranes towering over buildings, their sharp lines and angles looking fuzzy from the floating dust clouds 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), it’s to give you a snapshot of how Mellieħa is growing up. We’ll leave (most of) the judging to you.
P.S: Yes, we are critical sometimes, but we try to stay constructive! Don’t agree with something we say? Change our minds with a comment or send us a priivate message!
7. We start with these apartments which .. stand out.
OCD sufferers, beware. To the left side, we have an example of the traditional Maltese balcony, limestone and masonry. 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.”
6. And while we’re on the topic of blending in:
Our problem is with how different these buildings look from each other, with no sense of synergy. There’s no facade that can’t be improved someway or another, and we’re sure that greenery would help create a relationship between the buildings. Now, how do we go about getting Joseph Muscat to start giving free green walls?
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 5.
5. 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 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.
Below, a look at what the building that was previously in its place (Belleview) looked like:
We miss the Cypress tree.
4. 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 simple 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,
- 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 afford a villa, you can green it up!
- 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 development, diversity is key. In our opinion, 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.
3. The square that forgot about temperature
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 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 (again). 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 , 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?
My childhood nostalgia for unachievable goals like shade aside, the courtyard is pleasant and the photo definitely doesn’t do it justice.
2. The Hotels
One that is currently under development is situated right next to the Valyou supermarket located at the entrance to Mellieha. First, we’re not sure how building height regulations allow for an eight-story building. Second, this was a previously untouched field in the middle of a densely residential zone, so we wish it was a little more environmentally friendly for the community. The real problem here is how do you make developing a park or a garden as lucrative as a hotel? We’re not blaming people for being business-minded, but Malta with hotels as its only viable path to progress doesn’t sound too charming.
Other hotel developments currently taking place are to be found at the end of Triq Gorg Borg Olivier, where the Maritim Antonine Hotel and Spa has demolished its restaurant and 11 rooms in order to add another 64 rooms. For anyone who knows how notoriously tight Triq Ġorġ Borġ Olivier is, which has been through a number of developments, not least the back-and-forth decisions to turn it from a two-way street to a one-way street, such works are obviously causing more difficulties than the usual amount.
1. The recent refurbishment to the Solana Hotel and Spa
The recent refurbishments to the Solana Hotel and Spa up Triq Ġorg Borġ Olivier is, in our opinion, a little bit of a disappointment. We liked the charming white exterior and black balcony railings it had prior to restoration:
And this is how it looks after it’s latest upgrade:
Our personal opinion about the change in aesthetic aside, what isn’t clear in these photos is that, due to so many buildings going up, the street has become very closed in.
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.