Malta’s High Rise Mania

This year, Malta’s High Rise mania will get into full swing. Slowly slowly, over the next few years, our beloved skyline will be cluttered by an increase of tall shiny objects going ever skyward, most of which are incredibly unimaginative, or downright horrifying. Slowly slowly, Malta will fulfil the shallow ambition dreamt of by its boring, unimaginative politicians to become the “Dubai/Singapore/Hong Kong of the Mediterranean” and the skyline of old will fade away.

Figure 1: Squashing Fort Cambridge, and taking the name

Figure 1: Squashing Fort Cambridge, and taking the name

As a country, we are woefully unprepared for these behemoths to clutter our skyline. Sliema and Paceville, with two-lane roads utterly inadequate to cater for the far higher volume of traffic these new buildings will draw will bear the brunt of this upward expansion. Not to mention the huge volumes of sewage generated and our unprepared sewers.There are health and safety concerns that merit attention – in the event of a fire such as the Grenfell Tower fire of last year in London, would fire engines make it in time to save the building and its occupants? Of course, given the terrible traffic in Malta, I’ll leave that answer to your imagination.

There is also the issue of ruination of skylines. With the Cheese-grater Townsquare project set to rise to 38 stories, for example, we can expect more throngs of tourists peering over the Valletta bastions shaking their heads with sheer disgust at Sliema, as they already do from the Marsamxett bastions. Some buildings being proposed are downright hideous. The Mercury Tower project proposed for a corner plot at the heart of Paceville looks like something Mordor would be proud of. I have taken the liberty to call it ‘Barad-Dur, 2.0’, which is quite apt given that the architect seems to have been inspire by the visor of the Mouth of Sauron from the 2003 film “The Return of the King”.

Figure 2: The Mercury House building to the right, and its uncanny inspiration.

Figure 2: The Mercury House building to the right, and its uncanny inspiration.

Slowly, the Malta of old is lost under the glitz and the glam of high-rise fantasies, while residents nearby get treated to a long shadow of gloom and, of course, an impoverished quality of life compounded by increasing traffic, overcrowding and overwhelming nostalgia for a simpler past. But, who cares? As long as money is being made – as long as the greed of the triune god of our time, GDP, is satiated, then all is well in La-La Land.

As the Malta I grew up in is slowly turned into an overcrowded slum – a textbook case of unsustainable development, my heart turns ever to the countryside, to escaping the horrors of it’s built up space. Will it survive the onslaught? We all know that ODZ in Malta means nothing, except to increase speculation. Already, farmers are not selling their unused fields with expectations of new borders being announced. We will be rewarded with another expansion of these borders, no doubt, when the new Local Plan is announced sometime in the coming year or years. I am positively wet with anticipation.

Figure 3: I love the fact they always include birds, flying romantically over the sterile cheese-grater landscape

Figure 3: I love the fact they always include birds, flying romantically over the sterile cheese-grater landscape

Make no mistake – Malta has sold its soul to the construction industry. The two main political parties, who lack any taste for aesthetics or basic decency and have repeatedly whored our beloved country to the highest bidder. They are directly responsible for having destroyed whole swathes of our homeland. And guess what? Many people aren’t bothered. In our country, money rules, money wins, and money is king.

What can we do? Well, the answer is obvious. Stop being complacent and start doing something about this. Troll your ministers. Send them to hell if need be. Call them out for the irresponsible people that they are. DO something.

Oh, and stop voting for PL and PN. I’m sorry to say this but, if you believe these parties will change, you are only deluding yourselves. That’s an obvious fact to anyone with an iota of brain cells.

Otherwise we are doomed to look back with nostalgia on ‘simpler times’ and lament the loss of beauty and heritage, under the shadow of other Priapic Ziggurats and middle fingers, laughing greedily at the ruined skyline… a skyline once beautiful and honey-coloured, lost in our history books or in faded Richard Ellis photos.

John Paul is an environmental health specialist with a medical background who holds the environment at heart. He is currently employed within the NGO sector and actively seeks to promote sustainable development while also addressing the disharmony between human civilization and the Earth.

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