Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Plan of Wied Il-Buni

This plan is the latest. It is derived from the collage shown in an earlier post. Here inspiration is taken from the salt-pans and the concrete platforms that are scattered all over Maltese seascapes. A series of platforms and canopies divide the coast into inhabitable spaces which could be used for a number of things; markets, sports (volleyball, tennis, basketball courts will be marked onto the surface), swimming, theatre, outdoor cinema, sunbathing, fishing, walking, jogging, or just sitting and staring.

The drawing style is intentionally vague, as are the functions of the spaces. I don't wish to dictate what should be done here, it is a place for people to do as they please - to express Malteseness, whatever that may be.

In the same way the map was open to interpretation by others, so as to be manipulated into something Maltese - and not simply my own version of Maltese - the architecture is open to any form of expression.

A Conversation with Signy Svalastoga

I met Signy for a conversation about the project and amongst lots of other useful observations and feedback, she recommended that I look at the two following projects:

Paque de los Deseos, Medellin, Colombia

image above from: http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parque_de_Los_Deseos

images from: http://studenttravel.about.com/od/photosofmedellinparks

Playground, Stavanger, Norway by Helen & Hard

images taken from: http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/sf/outdoor/

Extension to the Freeport

click on the image below to see a larger version, or click on the following link to read the article online (with very heated comments from the public):

The extension to the Freeport is interesting for obvious reasons - because it will directly affect the site and its residents. But more interestingly it presents an opportunity for planning gain - a system whereby the developers would be required to develop a project alongside the Freeport extension that would benefit the local community(a system similar to Section 106 in London).

This project aims to give value back to the area. I am interested in finding an architectural way of saying, 'the freeport, gas plants etc etc exist and they are not going anywhere, whether we like it or not. This is the new landscape of the area - cranes, containers, etc.. and there is no hiding it - How can we face up to it, acknowledge it and make this town a better place?". It would be perfect if this were to be funded by the freeport - even if only in theory.

To quote a project friend and x-resident of Birzebbuga "in Birzebbuga (and the South in general) the citizens have suffered environmentally by Power Station on Marsaxlokk, Freeport, Gas Bottling Plants, Factories in Hal Far, Concrete Plants, Cargo Groupage bonded stores, illegal immigrant tents and very few embellishments and leisure facilities. If the Freeport were to contribute to a better life, tourism and leisure in Birzebbuga it would win many points, even politically."

A Landscape inspired by Salt-Pans

Creating a landscape of platforms and pools for the public to inhabit.

The rectangular shapes and plays with volumes, edges and stepping are inspired by the salt-pans and terraced fields that make up the Maltese landscape.

Here the rectangular shapes are extruded from the landscape or cut into it, to form platforms and pools.

There will be different sized places, for different types of use. Some for hiding in, others for rising above. Some sized for whole extended families, others for individuals.

Announcement - New Project Friend!

Project Friend Number 9 - Joe Gerada.

map conversation with Joe Gerada

My father has been an unofficial project friend since our map conversation in December. I have decided to make it official because his contributions have become key to the project. He drew the South of Malta, including Birzebbuga the village he grew up in - which eventually became my site. He explained the historical, social, economic factors that have shaped and changed this area and the reasons why it is so separate from the rest of Malta. In doing so he painted a layered picture of a place shaped more by outsiders than by its inhabitants, and a place that is still going through much change even now.

Lately he is one of the people I find most helpful in answering almost any type of question I have on Malta, be it architectural, social, historical, economic or completely random.

Monday, March 29, 2010

First Proposal

My starting point was to consider the whole promenade, from one end of the town at St. George's Bay, to the site at Wied il-Buni. I mapped a journey along the promenade, paying attention to the views of the Freeport.

The drawing above illustrates the key views along the promenade. Note the changes in the views of the Freeport as one moves towards Wied il-Buni which is to the right of the drawing.

From St. George's Bay the Freeport is small and in the distance, on the horizon. It is easy to take in as a whole, and the horizon is still visible - it does not completely obscure it.
As one walks towards Wied Il-Buni the Freeport gets progressively bigger, it obscures the horizon, and it is no longer at the background, it takes up the view, towers overhead...

The first proposal, illustrated in the plan below, uses the above observations to play with one's journey along the promenade. The key views noted in the yellow drawing above become the areas where pedestrians are encouraged to stop - by adding shading and street furniture. In the spaces in between these stopping areas there is no shading or seating - pedestrians are encouraged to walk. At other points views inwards to the town's pretty seaside houses are encouraged.

At the end of the journey, at Wied il-Buni (top left hand corner of drawing), the pedestrian is cut off from the view, only to be faced with it at the end of the journey when the freeport is at its largest and most overbearing.

The reason for these plays with the views of the Freeport is to acknowledge it as the town's landmark. To face up to its prominence - the opposite of pretending its not there. In a similar vein some of the street furniture will be informative, outlining the history of Birzebbuga, explaining the functions of the Freeport, outlining where the containers come from and go to...

Memories on the Site

Once the site was chosen and briefs were starting to come forward from all the research, as outlined in the posts below, it was time to bring back the memory map and use it to inform the architecture...

The memory map (shown below) was drawn at the start of the project. It was my attempt to capture all my memories and nostalgias of Malta, and accordingly was drawn from my memory whilst I was away in London. An interesting language began to emerge, a language that described Malta, and captured the unique places and spaces that formed the backdrop to my memories there.

I made copies of the map, cut them up and placed them over the site. The character of the places I had previously drawn now described the places that I wished to design.
The resultant collage is shown below. It describes the typically Maltese spaces existing in the town; the church square, townhouses, blocks of flats, villeggiatura houses, terraced fields and valleys...

collage of my memories of Malta, placed over Birzebbuga.

Below is a detail of the drawing at Wied Il-Buni. Here the collage is no longer describing what's there, but its describing what could be there. The Maltese spaces from my memories are placed over the site, they describe a journey; long straight followed by circular spaces to turn in.

detail of collage, showing the site at Wied il-Buni

Next to interpret what the essence of these spaces from my memories of Malta is, and how they will be translated into the architecture of the site!

Extract from Birzebbuga Local Council Website

Below is an extract from the Birzebbuga Local Council Website. It gives a clear indication of the problems that Birzebbuga is faced with. It also gives some insight into the nostalgia and loss felt by the residents. Finally one is given an idea what the mayor's wish for the town is - although this is quite a vague, a notion rather than a proposal.

" The Mayor of Birzebbuga is Joseph Farrugia... he has lived in Birzebbuga all his life and he has seen this once small seaside village change the what it is now.

As a boy he can remember Birzebbuga as a lovely seaside village,... As time passed Birzebbuga began to be developed.

It first started with British Petroleum who built a huge fuel installation, which has become part of Enemalta Corporation. This was followed by the naval station at Kalafrana, and then the Air Force Base at Hal-Far. Since then we now have the underground fuel installation at Wied Dalam; gas tanking at Qajjanze (northern Birzebbuga); Malta International Airport 32.End runway which starts from the southeast of Birzebbuga, the Malta Freeport and, finally the Power Station.

Till now every Maltese Government we have had has tried to create even more industry and facilities on this southern side of Malta, despite the ever-increasing level of pollution levels. I do not blame any of these governments because the intention was always to create jobs. No one foresaw that we would be faced with an ever increasing level of pollution that these accidents industries, including installations have created.

The petrol tanks...are surrounded by residential homes and the fumes, which leak into the environment lead to sickness and nausea, besides the threat of living very close to a time bomb.

The flight path of Malta International Airport is directly over the town, and aircraft fly in all day and all night, with their approach being very low. This creates, not only noise pollution, for the whole town, but the residents living in the flight path suffer from lack of sleep and continual disturbance.

The Freeport was built to encourage trade and industry. It created jobs and gives security to many people. Once again, it was built in a residential area, albeit opposite has created the coastline. In fact, the site used was the Kalafrana naval station. The pollution this has created is excessive noise at night with total disregard for the residents, especially when containers are either dropped or banged together; the generators, which are used for power, and sea pollution, again regardless of the fact that Birzebbuga is a seaside resort with its own hotel.

The Power Station was built to provide electricity to the southern part of Malta. The pollution this creates is one of black dust emissions, which fills the air and covers the houses with black dust.

Many of the residents, especially the children, suffer from asthma and bronchial related illnesses because of the excessive air pollution. They also suffer from lack of concentration at school due to being distributed at night by both air craft and Freeport.

Today, Birzebbuga has endured a great deal of damage to its way of life. Mr. Farrugia that it is not enough to compensate the residents by building of a new road, which will not benefit anyone, or planting trees which will have no effect on their lives. Drastic action is needed to be taken to solve this problem of pollution in order to give the residents a better quality of life and a cleaner environment for the benefit of the children.

It is the Mayor’s wish that the people of Birzebbuga who have lost entirely the clean environment, which the old folk used to enjoy, will be compensated in such a way that benefits them for the rest of their lives. The Mayor, and his fellow Councillors acknowledge very seriously that what Birzebbuga has lost can never be regained, but they can save what has not been lost and which is still good. "

taken from: http://www.birzebbugalc.com/History_1.html

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Local Scale vs The Freeport Scale

I have had to draw and re-draw the site because it is so difficult to communicate the scale of the freeport. It is larger than the whole town in plan, and it towers above it. The drawing above is an attempt to communicate the size of the freeport when compared to the town. The freeport is purposely overpowering, visible from miles away. Whilst the town is small and detailed, one needs to get up close to look at it.

How can the scale of the town be reinforced against this enormous stamp of industry?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Swapping Workshop - Elaine's Proposal

For the swapping workshop, Elaine was given my project briefs to work with for the day. Below are some of the drawings she produced. One of her main concerns was the heat and sun in Malta, so she drew maps trying to capture it. And then she added shading to the areas she thought would be the hottest. Her reaction to the briefs was to integrate the street furniture with the promenade, shading and blocking to make one continuous object.

How can the local identity and scale be reinforced?

To the residents of Birzebbuga!

If you had the opportunity to propose any sort of public building/space/facility for Birzebbuga, especially Wied Il-Buni area what would it be?

What does the town/people need?

What could help your local community?

What would make you proud?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Swapping Workshop Briefs

on Thursday 4th March we had a swapping workshop - for one day another person worked on my project, whilst I worked on somebody else's project. Below are the briefs I wrote for my swappee... They have now become the briefs for me to follow.
(click on the images to view them at a larger size)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Extracts from an interview with Jeremy Boissevain in Malta Today*

"...the Maltese view the family as the centre of everything. He describes this extreme family centredness as "amoral familism", a belief that any behaviour is justified if it furthers the interest of the family.
"This can lead to corruption and tax evasion. Such an attitude leaves little sense of loyalty to the community or the state," Prof. Boissevain explains.
Recalling the protests against the proposed Siggiewi cement plant two years ago, Prof. Boissevain says that residents came out against the project because it threatened their health. "They protested purely out of self interest not because of any particular regard for the environment," he claims. "Look at the Hilton project, only a few people had opposed it. The Maltese need egoistic motivations to be moved on environmental issues."
He insists that the country's shabbiness is a consequence of the family-first mentality, which values the house and the family territory above anything else. "People adorn their house and take care of it but show a complete disregard for the outdoors. Public space is viewed as no-man's land," he says."

Is this true? Surely one must take into consideration the lack of well designed public spaces, and the emphasis placed on streets before public spaces in planning. But perhaps that is also a symptom of the above observation that public space is a no-man's land - the planning authority is made of Maltese people too... Perhaps we are caught in one big vicious circle?

The challenge is to give value to public space, and to give a community the same sense of pride in public spaces that a family has in their house.


What has the town of Birzebbuga lost?

1. The Horizon
2. Clear/Clean Water.
3. View.
4. Silence.
5. Clean Air.
6. Sense of Pride.

Problems in Birzebbuga

Drawing illustrating the light pollution at night and imposing morning shadow on the site, both due to the freeport.

1. Cranes - the sight, the size, the invasion of the view
2. Noise from freeport - 24 banking and clanking of containers, generators.
3. Noise from planes flying overhead.
4. Light Pollution from freeport (as shown in image)
5. Pollution from Gas Tanks, Power Station, Ships.
6. Feeling of all the island's rubbish being thrown down here - social divide/inferiority?
7. Feeling of being unknown/forgotten by the rest of the island.
8. cannot swim due to sea pollution.

image of the freeport at night taken by Jonathan Hagos