Treading on Eggshells

I find myself these days are applying myself to the Internet with certain caution for fear of upsetting or shocking the delicate amongst us. So here goes, once more into the breach!

In the Mediterranean in the grand old city of Valletta, the capital of Malta, they are having a refit.  Well it’s not so much a refit, it seems that if you glimpse between the builders fences, in between all the machinery and works that are going on you would be excused for believing that the entire place is being totally rebuilt.

The video below is from the Times of Malta and shows the old City Gate, which never seemed to be really popular and which was constructed in the 1960s, now being hauled down to make way for a 21st century gate to this grand, beautiful, much adored and protect city.

I am sure the Knights of St John and all the other grand gentleman of Europe who built this beautiful city all those centuries ago are looking down very cautiously indeed.  But I think they have little to fear, because despite the controversy surrounding the redevelopment of the entrance to Valletta and down towards the bombed out former Opera House this most definitely is a 21st century makeover executed with the greatest care.

All of this is designed by Renzo Piano, the 74 year old world renowned Italian architect. The idea of this Genoese designer is to blend the age old and much loved Valletta with the 21st century. Despite protestations to the contrary I have never held an opinion of Mr. Piano’s designs or work. What I have seen is very ambitious, interestingly thought out and in a few cases quite beautiful.  I just hope the latter will finally apply to Valletta when the last stone has been laid.

Like thousands of other people I was concerned that theatre status would be removed from the former Royal Opera House bombsite – in actual fact, after extensive controversy, the Prime Minister turned the other way giving the green light for a new venue to replace the former Victorian one. So now the building to replace the theatre will still have the elements and memories of the war surrounding it. It will be a new structure when its complete and will definitely be a marked turnaround from the original colonnade design destroyed in 1942 be enemy bombers.

It is very difficult to look at the scale models of what is to be in this old city. I have tried to imagine, but these minatures don’t really do justice to the vision of the architect. I think it’s a bit unfair to judge the overall design until of course all the structures and the building works are complete. Only then will we be able to see for sure what has been achieved – and maybe what has not.

For now though I can tell you that Valletta is a major building site. With all the demolition that is going on you certainly get a feeling of something new, bright and dare I say optimistic on the slightly dusty horizon. Only time will tell if ‘new’ and ‘bright’ is the taste Malta is looking for in their ancient capital. The current government are planning to have most of this work done in time for the next general election in 2014.  So as London braces itself for 2012, our close friends in the Mediterranean are in the midst of huge change in their capital city as well.

Ian Waugh