13 October 2004

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The Valletta brand

This week The Malta Financial & Business Times is organising a Business Breakfast entitled Valletta: a theatre of dreams - the opera house site and other issues. This initiative, taken together with The Chamber of Architects, is an attempt to place Valletta further up on the national agenda.
Indeed, it is befitting that our capital city is treated with the respect and love it truly deserves. Ideally, a well-marketed Valletta could be the prime reason to visit Malta. The Valletta brand needs to be nurtured; its history, historic buildings, bastions, and façades are altogether an experience that can make a visit a memorable cultural experience. For all this to be captured we must all fully appreciate that a city is not just a set of buildings - it is also its people, its streets, its squares and, of course, its open spaces. Valletta must, above all, be seen as one whole. Valletta’s attraction is in its totality. It symbolises Malta’s identity.
Realising the full potential and beauty of Valletta involves a number of factors, including better use of its open spaces and an appreciation of its architectural heritage. The open spaces that exist in Valletta are there not by mere coincidence, but are the planned vision of concepts existing at the time it was planned. Traditionally we have misused these open spaces by filling them up with parked cars, a practice that leaves little room or respect for the pedestrian. Many of the open spaces are also in a dilapidated state. Upgrading and cleaning Valletta should also involve the introduction of the concept of pedestrianisation, as this will once again make the individual the centre point of the city as originally planned. For this to materialise there must be a well thought out idea of underground parking.
The approach to the city also needs to be refined. The current shabby state of the bus terminus and hawkers within the gate gives an extremely messy image to the entrance. It certainly is the very antithesis of heritage appreciation. Many of Valletta’s finest buildings are dwarfed and left unnoticed as a result of poor traffic and parking arrangements. New ideas need to be considered. Why not introduce pedestrianisation in large parts of Valletta, landscaping, redesigning of the squares, allowing full access and views of the more spectacular buildings of Valletta like the National Library, eclipsed by umbrellas, café tables and chairs?
The groups that have come together to lobby for a better Valletta deserve the full support of all who have Valletta at heart. The Valletta Alive Initiative is a very good attempt by civic-minded persons and organisations to inject life into Valletta. They are, in effect, nurturing the Valletta brand with the worthwhile suggestions they have made, many of which incorporate a simple common sense approach to upgrading the city. The regenerative strategy includes working towards a liveable city with pedestrianisation, public spaces, cleanliness, streetscaping, evening leisure, shopping and culture.
Much has already been done to enhance Valletta’s standing as a world heritage city, but so much more still needs to be implemented. We sincerely hope this morning’s gathering will prove a positive contribution to the upgrading of Valletta

Copyright © Newsworks Ltd. Malta.
Editor: Saviour Balzan
The Malta Financial & Business Times, Newsworks Ltd, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann
Tel: (356) 21382741-3, 21382745-6 | Fax: (356) 21385075 | E-mail