The Mediterranean border

The Mediterranean border
Investigating the role of Malta, from gateway to the Orient to bridge between worlds.

AP Valletta
Valletta, Malta.
Team members
Jacques Borg Barthet
Konrad Buhagiar
David Felice
Erica Giusta
Field of work
Project category
Raising awareness
Project submitted

Since 1991, AP Valletta’s work seeks to transform attitudes towards the built environment: from short-termist property speculation to positive re-imagination of heritage, with interventions that deliver lasting societal value. This is most evident in our public projects such as Barrakka Lift and the Dock 1 regeneration, and in our research revolving around sustainable heritage, for which we were shortlisted in the Heritage-led Innovation category of the Europa Nostra-Ilucidare Awards 2021.

The project aims at researching the idea of Valletta as a ‘laboratory of the future’ at the border between two worlds, the Christian West and the other, and in the centre of the Mediterranean, in which traces of the other (influences of north African and Arabic origins mainly) were erased, generating as a consequence an ambivalent perception of colonialism which persists until today with repercussions at all levels and in all spheres, including that of the built environment – ultimate reflection of a society and its values.
Colonial experiences play a huge role in the evolution of societies and Malta is no exception. The coloniser was viewed at once as a protector and a provider of income – an exploiter who gave enough to retain control, who could be exploited when anything was there for the taking. The economy of a floating Mediterranean fortress was a pretext for a reliance on providence, a faith dependent on making the most of favourable moments. These traits pervade the semi-static cultural evolution of civic attitudes in the increasing flux and uncertainty of contemporary forms of colonialism, and the aspirations and inequalities that these leave behind. While it is clear the status of Malta in colonial times was that of ‘gateway to the Orient’ and laboratory for the future ‘of the North’, it is much less clear what position the country has or could/should have in the current post-colonial, European scenario. Can that perspective be reversed? Can Malta aim at transitioning from its position of gateway to that of a bridge between Europe and Africa? Can the historical ambivalence of Malta’s cultural identity develop positively into a unique laboratory for exchange and for the testing of new models, including of new approaches to both tangible and intangible heritage, and therefore generate an environment which embraces diversity and which transcends colonial legacies? These are the key question that the proposed publication will investigate.