Wednesday, February 17, 2010

On Limestone and the Mediterranean

"The calcium in limestone makes it water-soluble and easily eroded, yet limestone builds up over eons, a stratum at a time, out of organic matter, recalling the stratified history of Mediterranean civilization"

France, Alan W. (1990). Gothic North and the Mezzogiorno in Auden's 'In Praise of Limestone'.

In Praise of Limestone

"If it form the one landscape that we, the inconstant ones,
Are consistently homesick for, this is chiefly
Because it dissolves in water. Mark these rounded slopes
With their surface fragrance of thyme and, beneath,
A secret system of caves and conduits; hear the springs
That spurt out everywhere with a chuckle,
Each filling a private pool for its fish and carving
Its own little ravine whose cliffs entertain
The butterfly and the lizard"

Extract from In Praise of Limestone by W.H. Auden. May 1948.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Pretty Bay

Pretty Bay was once a little rocky beach with nice views. In 1988 the bay was artificially filled with sand recovered from the sea during dredging works for the nearby Freeport. Was the sand a compensation to make up for the not so pretty view?

(photograph taken from

Textures on Site

The site is full of textural inspiration. And in the bright Maltese sun it is easy to capture the shadows created and the textural qualities present in the materials (concrete, rusty metal, limestone, gravel, water,...) and typologies (flats, bars, clubs, cranes, containers, cars, boats,...)

(click on the image to view a larger version)

Malteseness on Site

Birzebbuga Bocci Club

Salt Pans

Seaside bars, sailing club,...

What else could this area need?

Sea in Land

The views from the site are peculiar because from here the sea appears to be enclosed. It is one of the few places in Malta where the sea appears to be inland, closed in by the natural harbour and the freeport.

The Freeport

One of the most loud and unignorable changes to the scenery of Birzebbugia is the addition of the Freeport (a transhipment hub built in 1988) - it cannot be missed: it is the part of the coast that looks man-made; grey with hard edges. Large cranes loom in the background of almost every sea view from the town. And even when not by the sea the loud banging and clanking of the containers being stacked remind one of its ever-presence, and 24-hour activity.
I have chosen a site that faces the freeport. It is the limestone coast to the left of the picture below:

Below is a view of the freeport with the site in the background at the top right hand corner:

Below is a view of the freeport from the site:

Birzebbuga and the South

Birzebbuga is located in 'the South' as the Maltese call it, but it's actually the South East of the Island. The image below is of the port areas of the 'South'. The bay to the North East of the large harbor area is the fishing village of Marsaxlokk, further South and to the West is Birzebbuga.

The reason I find this area of interest is because it is somewhat ignored or forgotten by the general Maltese public, so many Maltese people hardly ever venture to the South - which is incredible considering the island is only 27 km at its longest.
Like the rest of Malta it has undergone much change, it is dense with layer upon layer of Mediterranean history: It is rich in pre-historic settlements and Megalithic Temples. It was the first place to be inhabited by the Phoenicians. Houses the remains of a Roman Villa. Is scattered with fortifications built by the Knights and later other built by the British. It was the site of a British Military Base and so the village transformed into a center full of the bars and entertainment necessary to keep the Naval officers happy.
The area has continued to have layers and functions placed over it since the island's independence and through having much industry thrown its way. And more recently the area has seen a massive influx of assylum seekers due to the positioning of the Immigration Detention Facilities.

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