21 participants with very different backgrounds (practitioners, academics as well as residents), supported by Kerem Halbrecht from 72hrs Urban Action, worked together on the themes chosen from the elements the residents of the Biccerija area identified during their unconference in June of this year.
At the end of 4 intense days, a series of interventions where made in and around the building where the Valletta Design Cluster will be hosted in the future. The crucial question ‘what will become of me’ is written on one of the doors. A question that hopefully will engage the neighbours to write their ideas of what the place should become and take away the anxiety about creative people coming into the space without caring for the neighborhood.
This is not the end but the start of a long series of workshops and interactions engaging with the urban tissue of Malta.
We asked one of the participants, Greta Muscat Azzopardi, to write some notes to accompany the video with the results of the first Design4DCity workshop. This is not the end but the beginning of a long series of workshops and interactions with the urban tissue of Malta.
As one of the participants Greta Muscat Azzopardi puts it: “We eventually came up with a series of interventions on and around the Biccerija building, designed to spur the residents into action, spark imagination over what the building and surroundings could become as well as create opportunities for collaboration and a feeling of empowerment for the residents regarding their ability to shape the area’s future.
The results were extremely encouraging. We chatted with residents while setting up, borrowed equipment from them, they joined during the presentation and contributed with their stories about the area. The pot-hole plants were re-homed with much enthusiasm. There’s probably a long road ahead to finding meaningful, organic ways we can collaborate together, this definitely moved us closer.”
Video filmed and edited by Matthew Attard
Thank you to both Greta and Matthew.
For the workshops Design4DCity teamed up with 72Hrs Urban Action. This Berlin based organization defines itself as a civic design practice that involves residents, decision makers and professionals. It harnesses creative thinking and existing resources within a community to rapidly make places. Through the power of temporality and experimentation, it encourages participation and a lasting change of perception. Through an extreme deadline, a tight budget and limited space, Urban Action sets the imagination free to allow for new possibilities and players in public space. This will also be the challenge for the workshop participants joining 28 September to 1 October at Fort St Elmo. The action will happen around the biccerija area. Notte Bianca will showcase the outcomes of these intense 4 days at St Elmo.
Next week Design4DCity will kick off. An interdisciplinary team will work intensively on the future of urban space in a residential neighbourhood in Valletta where the Biccerija is located, with hands-on sessions relating to urban futures and insights into human-centred design, practical tasks involving multidisciplinary teams, and the opportunity to discuss your own vision for future life in Valletta with residents, design professionals, and even anyone coming into Valletta for Notte Bianca on 1st October.
Urban and social changes in Valletta in the past few decades, and especially in the last few years, have brought to the surface a number of issues that are directly effecting the liveability of Valletta. These challenges have a plurality of sources and causes, and are influenced by changes happening on the social, cultural, infrastructural, economic, and governance levels. The location of the Valletta Design Cluster at the heart of one of the residential neighbourhoods of Valletta, as well as its status as one of the Valletta 2018 flagship projects, have triggered an increased awareness about the interactions and mutual dependence between these various factors. This has in turn provided a more focused impetus to ensure that such initiatives rope in the contribution of citizens, be they residents or other regular city users, in the planning and execution of projects that will be having a lasting impact on the city’s liveability and vitality. In addition to this, by tapping into contemporary design practices the Valletta Design Cluster intends to channel holistic, multidisciplinary and inclusive processes aimed at using design to enhance the experience of living and visiting the city.
By adopting the concept of common space and of commoning as a constructive, proactive and creative approach, an overarching vision stretching from 2016 to the year of the European Capital of Culture and beyond is being adopted for this initiative. The idea of common space evokes here the set of special relations produced by ‘commoning practices’ as articulated by Stavros Stavrides, when he states: “Opening the community of those who share common worlds, opening the circles of sharing to include newcomers, opening the sharing relations to new possibilities through rethinking of sharing rules and opening the boundaries that define the pace of sharing “ (Stavrides: 2016).
For each year between 2016 and 2019, these practices of Commoning shall be explored within different contexts inside and outside of Valletta, in all cases bringing together the associated elements of design and technology as tools, and well-being and livability as targets for redefining common spaces in society. The scope of the annual initiatives might be circumscribed by specific urban spaces but could also consist of more intangible social spaces, such as organisations, businesses, and civil society.
Design4DCity 2016 shall serve as the pilot initiative for this four year process, focusing primarily on the neighbourhood of the Old Abattoir in Valletta, the area immediately surrounding the site of the new Valletta Design Cluster. The map below indicates the perimeter of the Cluster’s immediate neighbourhood, although for Design4DCity this should not be taken to restrict the inclusion of other spaces in the area or even inside Valletta as a whole.