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Support for Chamber of Architects' proposals

Ideas on quality in architecture set to reach wider audience

The Chamber of Architects wants to improve the quality of life in the built environment. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

The Chamber of Architects wants to improve the quality of life in the built environment. Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

The Chamber of Architects yesterday received a lot of support for its document on setting out a road map for the built and rural environment.

The chamber is also proposing the setting up of a national centre for the built environment. It would include an independent design review commission aimed at creating a platform to achieve quality in architecture and the design of buildings and public spaces.

Chamber president, David Felice said, at a seminar, that the challenge was not easy but not impossible.

Quoting a statement in the 1960s by Quentin Hugues, who then said "there is still time to save Malta, but only just," Mr Felice said the chamber wanted to create a sense of pride in architects, making them more aware and responsible.

Education Minister Louis Galea said the document expressed preoccupation about where the country is heading and expresses a sense of urgency and hope for a fresh start.

"The vision is not alien to our aspirations. On the contrary, it responds to them. Over the past 50 years, socio-economic development was concerned with providing housing.

"We are now speaking about quality of life issues for now and the future," he said.

Most of those who gave their views during the seminar, including Din l-Art Helwa and Federation of Industry president Martin Galea, said that what was positive about the document was that it was coming from architects. Several speakers raised issues such as vacant buildings, the importance of protecting important examples of contemporary architecture and the revision of rent laws.

Architect John Ebejer said leadership was vital to bring about a culture change.

This was needed to change people's habits about transport and to encourage them to find alternative investment opportunites rather than buying a second property, which was one of the causes fuelling demand for more property.

Astrid Vella, from Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar asked about the chamber's position on encouraging the use of existing buildings rather than building new ones.

Alternattiva Demokratika chairman Harry Vassallo urged the chamber to make its vision simpler and translate it into Maltese so that the man in the street could embrace it.

Geography lecturer John Schembri said urban density had to be taken into account.

The oft quoted figure of 1,200 people per square kilometre for Malta was somewhat misleading. Senglea, for instance, had a density of 19,000 people per square kilometer. Such factors had to be borne in mind when speaking about challenges in the urban fabric.

The chamber is to go back to the drawing board to find ways to fine tune its ideas further with a view to reach as wide an audience as possible.

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