Corporate VillageEdit profile
Corporate Village In a special issue on Malta, The Architectural Review of July 1969 included an article called ‘Rape of a Village’ by Peter Richardson, then a lecturer at the school of architecture in the Royal University of Malta. Richardson wrote about the unique quality of the Maltese villages, with their compact planning so well suited to our climate. He wrote that they will disappear if they are broken open for the convenience of motorists or on for the sake of some misguided idea of improvement. This had already happened in more than one village and was threatening others. The structure of the Maltese villages is so tightly interlocked that any deviation from their pattern of development was bound to cause their destruction as marvellous examples of townscape developed as a direct response to simple functional and climatic problems – a place where people could live together in simple harmony, facing the fierceness of their environment. If Malta wished to retain these visual qualities, Richardson wrote, it had to apply the most rigid controls to ensure their preservation. It didn’t. What did happen, as always does, everywhere, was that new roads brought new development, and the uniqueness of each and every original village, till then physically separated and distinct from one another, was lost. The result? One larger urban area forming one city; wound around its historical centre, the fortified towns, the capital Valletta, with a defining edge running around the harbours. This project is located within a brownfield site that lies along this edge, within what has been an industrial zone since the 1960s. In the last decade, new office developments have taken shape in this zone, thus changing the dynamics of the area and bringing a drastic increase in its working population. This 36,000sqm site lies at the heart of this district, offering the opportunity for causing a project that can catalyse the regeneration of a whole locality. The site also includes an unused building that is representative of the Modernist Movement in Malta. Thus, the proposal for the project places the retention and preservation of this building at its core. The brief for the development is to create central support services and ancillary facilities for businesses already operational or starting up in Malta, to serve both as a support structure for these enterprises as well as to provide much needed high quality office space, complemented by amenities such as retail, dining facilities, sports facilities, and child care services that render a working environment more flexible, accessible and comfortable. The project is guided by six main principles: sustainability in all aspects; openness and transparency; tangible quality; response to its context; the creation of a core; and the interplay between internal and external areas. The massing aims at achieving a sculptural volume that can be experienced from all around the site, while at the same time incorporating external spaces that wrap around and within the main building mass. The concept evolved from the same sculptural volume that folded out of the site, with a flat piece of paper being cut, folded and formed into one volume. This developed into the consideration of the external skin of the building as a shell that encapsulates the internal volumes and that is perceived as being detached from the main building mass, hovering above the landscape, and imparting the scheme with a sense of lightness and transparency. The concept of folding out of the building was extended to the screen, which is envisaged as having varying densities in different parts of the building emulating the varying layers achieved when folding a piece of paper. The varying densities are carefully positioned in relation to the underlying uses, allowing for the possibility of controlling the levels of lighting penetrating through the screen. While being light in nature, the screen also portrays a sense of structural stability, which emphasises and sustains the almost filigree-like effect that it manifests in its various facets. In order to rationalise the screen, a modular system was developed whereby a triangular component is rotated, mirrored and multiplied to create larger components which are then repeated throughout the shell. Thus one module serves as the DNA for the whole of the structure. The project aims at providing a progressive and holistic environmental design which incorporates both passive and active measures of energy requirement reduction and energy production. The intention is to find an adequate balance between architectural image and technical performance. The emphasis does not lie on including individual environmental approaches but on achieving an optimised symbiosis between the various measures proposed, thus resulting in an overall improvement of the building’s environmental performance, by reducing its energy consumption and minimising its carbon footprint.