With a booming economy demanding commercial space and a desire to position Malta as a second home destination for affluent buyers, many think the time is right for a 21st century makeover of certain areas on the island. There is a lot of enthusiasm to create iconic buildings with unique design features that can cater for the needs of modern Malta. In breaking new ground, the island is seeking to partner up with architecture and management firms of international repute that are ready to go beyond the industry standard by experimenting with structures, arrangements and technologies, without compromising the island’s heritage and historic fabric.
Careful to preserve Malta’s century-old architecture, the island’s construction industry has reinvented itself in recent years with a focus on heritage-led projects that integrate historic buildings and areas within regeneration schemes to create popular, successful environments in which people enjoy working and living. Malta’s capital city, Valletta, a UNESCO World Heritage site, has just undergone a radical transformation, with Italian star architect Renzo Piano designing a new entrance to the city, as well as a new parliament building. Demand for high-value and quality property in recent years has also led to the development of a number of lifestyle developments providing a mix of luxury apartments, commercial outlets and leisure amenities. These projects have become catalysts for urban regeneration, encouraging further high-quality re-development. At the same time, an influx of foreign companies fuelled demand for commercial space and spurred the construction of new office blocks and the modernisation of older ones.
Creating Modern Marvels
However, there is rising awareness that more ambitious projects are required to address the infrastructural challenges the island faces today. The Malta Planning Authority acknowledges the fact that iconic buildings can act as a catalyst for economic growth and urban renewal. A number of locations have already been identified for re-development, including an area in St Julian’s known as St George’s Bay and a number of sites on Gozo. They are said to have attracted the interest of international architectural firms, including Zaha Hadid Architects and Chapman Taylor.
While there is an appetite in Malta to have the next big idea on the drawing board, the realisation of these projects is not an easy task, as it requires careful weighing of environmental and planning concerns, including the fear of overdevelopment. Iconic buildings will also cost more to design and to construct, but they are more likely to attract higher profile tenants and buyers. Promoting Malta’s image as a progressive country through its built environment is also aimed at positioning the island as a top choice for people seeking to purchase property abroad. Today, almost 5% of real estate is foreign-owned, mostly British, but the island increasingly attracts buyers from other European countries as well as the US and the Middle East. New projects are sure to attract more investment and have the potential to become symbols for Malta’s growing cosmopolitan culture.