Thursday, June 16, 2016

Oh Malta, who'll save you now?

An ugly room can coagulate any loose suspicions as to the incompleteness of life, while a sun-lit one set with honey-coloured limestone tiles can lend support to whatever is most hopeful within us. 
Belief in the significance of architecture is premised on the notion that we are, for better and for worse, different people in different places – and on the conviction that it is architecture’s task to render vivid to us who we might ideally be. 
Alain de Botton, The Architecture of Happiness

Beautiful spaces, both indoor and outdoor, inspire feelings of awe within us, like any pieces of great art. In London, strolling past a row of perfectly preserved terraced houses and their front gardens beckons me in with feelings of serenity, comfort and satisfaction, while a derelict council estate does the opposite.

People travel across the world seeking marvels of architecture, both ancient and modern. No-one can deny the beauty of a quaint, untouched rural village whose cobble stones and shades of grey, blue and white fit together in a perfect puzzle. Artists find the deepest inspiration in beautiful spaces and structures, paying tribute to them in writing, paintings and photographs.

It’s safe to say that people value beauty in their surroundings, and will do what they can to preserve it – whether the natural beauty of their country’s landscapes, or the beauty of a well-designed and well-executed building.

And yet, while these spaces are so integral to our experience of the world, we are allowing greed, bad taste and a false sense of progress to overshadow our need for beauty. It saddens me to look at the overdevelopment of Malta - a place where space is so limited - and the process of uglification that is happening daily all over the island. It’s become acceptable to knock down a historic building, rich with character, tradition, and the skill of those who built it, to make space for a towering block of white concrete which lacks any of these things. It isn’t just the (already harmful) act of destroying grand structures or plots of land, but also the creation of new, bare, ugly spaces which will never be conducive to public enjoyment and activity; will never enrich our culture or traditions.

How terribly sad that pure utility – the unrestrained need for more hotels, more empty flats and more parking lots – has taken the place of beauty, of history, of culture. How insulting that instead of paying homage to the island’s natural beauty and ancient architecture, and doing our best to preserve and restore it, we build relentlessly, with no proper planning, creating a concrete jungle where ugliness meets the eye at every turn. What impact will this have on our biggest industry – tourism? Moreover, what impact is this having on our collective psyche, our happiness, our imagination?

It saddens me that my home is a place I can no longer be proud of. It’s a place I don’t want to return to, not for lack of opportunity or lack of familiarity, but loss of beauty and inspiration. Day by day, with every new soulless development, we’re crushing our shared history and eating away at our culture. And unfortunately, none of this can ever be undone - it's shaping the future of our country.

To the developers who have nothing to speak of but greed and money, to the shamelessly corrupt and irresponsible politicians who give away everything we are proud of, to the passive bystanders who continue to support these politicians regardless: How dare you destroy the beauty of my home? Your actions are irreversible. Will you stop before it is too late?