Russian Window on the Med - Sandro Spiteri
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Russian Window on the Med - Sandro Spiteri

I almost hesitate to write about it, for fear that this government’s reverse psychology pathology will kick in and make it happen. But have you seen the proposed steel carbuncle that some Russian architectural firm wants to attach to the remaining stub of Dwejra’s Azure Window? One Svetozar Andreev, whose firm’s website is long on shiny proposals but short on actual finished projects, wants to ‘reinterpret’ (oh no dahling, you don’t rebuild, that’s so crass) the fallen window with a shiny stack of space-age polyhedrons to house a five-story exhibition space.

Andreev is calling his proposal ‘The Heart of Malta’. Which is quite unfortunate seeing that ‘The Heart of the Ocean’ was the name of the jewel worn by the gorgeously disrobed Kate Winslet before it eventually sank to the bottom of the sea to join the Titanic. Andreev says that his project will “compensate for the loss of the Azure Window” and “blend into the Landscape”. Presumably in the same way that a pole-dancing routine blends into a Good Friday procession.

Is Andreev’s proposal in any way connected to the government’s hiccupping plans to ‘upgrade’ the Dwejra area and ‘memorialise’ the Azure Window? In recent years we heard of two non-starters: a 3-D rendering of the fallen arch, and a resort of some sort.  Indeed, the latter was the only response to an international call made in 2016. Is Andreev’s just a publicity stunt, or is there more to this preposterous proposal than meets the eye?

In 2006 the Building Design magazine started awarding the Carbuncle Cup, the prize no architect wants, for the ugliest UK building of the year. It is high time that we had a similar Maltese award for the ugliest love-spawn of the Planning Authority. And what better time to do so than at the tail end of the national apotheosis to bad taste and (with some important exceptions) crass escapist ‘culture’: Valletta ’18.

An obscenity filled with the greedy gawking at the rididulous

I suggest we call it the Hysterical Bajtra Award – the Bajtra for short – in honour of that monument to bad design, muddled thinking and financial mismanagement that sits perched at the tip of the Central Bank car park at Castille.

In truth, Andreev’s Big Steel (steal?) Toe, if ever constructed, would have some stiff competition for the Bajtra. Think of the identical blocks of apartments with their stacks of battery-hen aluminium balconies on Dawret il-Qawra, looking over the salt pans. Or the up-yours exclamation marks that are the Fort Cambridge towers at Sliema. Or the inverted truncated pyramid that houses the MFSA, which is becoming an ironic visual metaphor for the state of banking stability that the MFSA should be safeguarding. Not to mention the countless smaller sore thumbs that dot each and every town and village in Malta and Gozo.

But perhaps we need a specific super-Bajtra category just for prospective mega-monstrosities. Such as the DB / Hard Rock development at St George’s Bay that will blight Paceville and Pembroke. Or the Quad Business Towers that will forever ruin the view from Mdina.

Nevertheless, I maintain that for sheer architectural effrontery Dwejra’s Big Steel Toe would still win the Super Bajtra hands down. It would draw inexorably your half-averted gaze like a horrible growth on the neck of a man in denial. It would be the architectural equivalent of the life-size statues of Michelangelo’s Davide in shiny white porcelain with tastefully applied golden fig-leaf and toenails that used to be on sale in Malta, but on a truly epic scale.

Indeed, the Toe and this Davide would deserve each other. Those who the gods want to punish for their money-grubbing, ethically arid arrogance and ignorance, they curse with lavish bad taste. For that is what this Russian Tieqa would be: an obscenity filled with the greedy gawking at the ridiculous.

Scots food for the soul

Now to change subject completely. One charity that truly deserves your support this Christmas (and, sadly, there are many to choose from) is the Foodbank Lifeline Foundation Malta. This is run by a team led by the Rev. Kim Hurst of St Andrew’s Scots Church in Valletta. Rev. Hurst is a walking warm hug of a woman who makes everyone feel welcome. And so many today need this loving ministry, so many new poor who are homeless or practically so, and cannot make ends meet to ensure a decent meal.

The Foodbank Lifeline Foundation hands out hundreds of meals a week. That it is becoming increasing indispensable for a growing number of people in Malta is a blot on our society. But that is another argument. As the usual suspects start trundling their charity juggernauts, you can do a lot worse than helping Rev. Kim’s foodbank to feed the hungry this Christmas.

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece

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