Some people just don't know when to call it a day

Published: April 2, 2010 at 11:27am

Astrid, please note the open space on the left of this picture, just behind the gate.

Astrid Vella is still kvetching on about the Piano project (see below).

This when she didn’t bother going to the MEPA hearing and went to Italy instead – among civilised people, as she put it on (where else?) Facebook.

Astrid’s diploma in baroque studies, which led her to discover a baroque house near Stella Maris church in Sliema, has led her to believe that she is worth consulting on town-planning during the interplay period between the Renaissance and the Baroque, and its relevance in 2010.

Does this Baroque Expert (capital letters required, as with Leader) not know that Valletta was planned as a fortress city, and not as one where knights and ladies would swoon around sniffing roses while listening to lutes?

Life was tough and every bit of space behind those protective walls was precious. Any open spaces Astrid sees on her maps would have been regarded as the equivalent of what we call, in today’s terminology, ‘plots’. An open space was a waste of space.

But then this is the same Astrid Vella who studied a map of Fort Tigne and decided – clever girl – that this was proof that Sliema was inhabited in the Baroque period because look, there’s a street clearly marked on the Tigne peninsula.

Astrid might wish to study the photograph shown here. This is what the area immediately behind Valletta’s main gate looked like before all the houses were razed to the ground to create ‘Freedom Square’. There wasn’t an open space, but rather the opposite: a densely-packed area of many houses.

This ignorant whining has gone beyond mere irritation now. No wonder the only people our Astrid is still communicating with are the Labour Party elves and the blackshirts.

But I imagine we’ll have to put up with it until she finds some other reason to parade her wares on the Super One bandwagon. There’s only so much of a kick she can get out of Facebooking her Labour and blackshirt friends morning, noon and night. But what am I saying? Another month, and we’ll be down at Tigne Beach or at our second home in Gozo.

Astrid Vella,, yesterday beneath a report on the start of the project

I’m afraid you’re totally wrong. Before assuring us that “Valletta is supposed to be a grid; no open spaces whatsoever” did you check any old maps of Valletta? Early 17th-Century maps, many reproduced in Albert Ganado’s “Valletta Citta Nuova” clearly show no less than nine open squares all over the city, as the beauty of a Baroque streetscape was supposed to be exactly what we are destroying, the interplay between open and closed spaces.

Some of these squares have already been lost, like the square where the closed market was built behind the Palace. More importantly, these maps clearly show that more than half of what is now Freedom Square was intended to remain unbuilt.

The beauty of almost every city in Europe lies in the provision of open squares and their embellishment. Even cities like St Petersburg where the inclement weather limits public enjoyment of such spaces, was laid out with a park or square every few blocks, all of which still exist to this day. Why is it only in Malta that we have to destroy the very essence of beauty in a city?

27 Comments Comment

  1. red-nose says:

    Have you been to Toledo in Spain?

  2. Paul Bonnici says:

    That’s a beautiful scene of Valletta. This scene cannot be recreated, it’s been lost for ever. What we have now is monstrosity.

  3. H.P. Baxxter says:

    Er, Valletta’s street plan was laid out in 1566. Hardly “baroque”.

    Astrid Vella is right, though, when she says that Malta lacks open squares. Just about the only wide open urban space is in Floriana, just a few hundred metres away from Valletta’s entrance. Now the way to go about it would be to integrate both “cities” into one seamless space. For a start, we could remove the hideous Triton fountain, and the even more hideous bus terminus-cum-Marrakech souk that has sprung up around it.

    Too many damn cars – that’s the problem when it comes to urban planning in this country. If it weren’t for that Armageddon-like crater of a car park near the RAF cenotaph, we could have something close to a park near Valletta’s entrance.

    Piano’s brief should have been made wider, not narrower. Wide briefs allow more room for manouevre, as it were…..

    • Rover says:

      Careful Baxxter, Astrid and her followers would have a fit. Any more mention of Piano projects would have them bouncing off the city walls, never mind her imaginary open space behind the gate.

      • H.P. Baxxter says:

        True, true. What we need now is action. I must say I was pleasantly surprised to see that works have started right on schedule.

    • guza says:

      The Triton fountain was beautiful before it got wrecked and had to be fixed using a column for support. And guess who wrecked it…

  4. me says:

    The only open space (very large open space) was between ‘Porte de Bombes’, the real first gate (one gate) to Valletta and Valletta proper with a ‘V’ curtain bastion under where the Triton Fountain now stands. The actual original Valletta gate was a hole in the wall (like Greeks’ Gate) with a somewhat steep hill behind it and a large ball-shaped stone set somewhere where the newsagent is now. This facilitated the removal of the stopper which held it in place and rolling it down to block completely the entrance o the city.

  5. Cannot Resist Anymore! says:

    Astrid Vella has not yet given up trying to puzzle us with her blatant contradictions and oxymorons.

  6. embor says:

    I thought of drawing up a list of subjects in which Astrid Vella considers herself to be an expert: town planning, urban design, architecture, planning law, environmental law, theatre design, cultural policy, etc.

    The way she speaks and writes, she must think of herself as an expert on these subjects. This contribution on urban spaces in Valletta is a case in point.

    The lecturers of the baroque studies diploma perform miracles because they transform persons with no knowledge and experience into experts on everything.

    Her colleagues in FAA are also considered to be experts notwithstanding that they never received any training. According to a certain “Whoa, there!”, for example, Miriam Cremona is more competent than Prof Ian Refalo in planning law.

    Those whom Daphne aptly describes as Astrid’s toy soldiers will come to her rescue if any one expresses doubt in what Astrid Vella says or in her competence.

    Anyone who expresses an opinion different from hers will be accused of having vested interests or even worse (like when she described Daphne as the official publicist for a number of development projects).

    Her strategy is to enhance her own credibility whilst undermining the credibility of others.

    • Whoa, there! says:

      Mr. Borg: May I suggest fixing yourself a nice calming tea, grabbing a hold of a dictionary and thesaurus and then re-reading slowly and properly what I had posted regarding Professor Refalo and then, once again, asking Dr Andrew Borg Cardona for his opinion in another blog?

      • embor says:

        Whoa there! This is what you wrote on 26 March 2010

        “Professor Ian Refalo is one of Malta’s foremost commercial law experts. He is probably the most respected in this field and his authority on the subject is undisputed and his track-record in the field is a shining example to whoever engages in this particular branch of the law.
        Despite this – and this can be said of most lawyers – this does not make him necessarily an expert in the various intricate planning and heritage legislation AND the complex maze of EU directives on the matter.
        On the other hand, I know of many public officers who are experts in certain branches of the law – for example, taxation – and who are consulted by lawyers.
        Likewise, people like Miriam Cremona of FAA is well versed in her field of heritage conservation and planning legislation. It has to be noted – if memory serves me right – that the lady has also served on government-appointed bodies like the Valletta Rehabilitation Project.
        So, really, I would not be surprised that in certain instances, people like Miriam Cremona – who unlike lawyers – concentrates on very specific aspects of the law – can indeed know more about the topic than even the most qualified of lawyers if these lawyers do not live and breathe the complex maze of specialised branches of the law.”

        Whoa there! You are neither a lawyer nor an architect nor have you ever used planning or environmental law in your work because if you did you would realise how foolish you were in posting this comment.

        As far as heritage conservation and planning legislation is concerned, Miriam Cremona is an idiot and she confirmed it without any shadow of a doubt in her writings on the Piano project.

  7. MarioP says:

    nice shots here – looks like it’s the early fifties.

  8. patrick says:

    Astrid is SO WRONG. The Knights built the city for it to be “perpetually contemporaneous”. All the auberges were reshaped in some way to reflect the times. The new House of Parliament will be built in in contemporaneous architecture of the early 21st century by Renzo Piano.

  9. J Abela says:

    Don’t understand me wrongly. I’m all out in favour of Piano’s project but Astrid is not totally wrong. Francesco Laparelli originally wanted a large parade ground in the area where the goverment block and Freedom Square now stand. However this plan was never executed by the Knights and the area was built up.

    • H.P. Baxxter says:

      Yes, he wanted a place d’arme though, not a beautiful square with aesthetic considerations. In any case, that’s by the by. Let’s build the damn thing. There’s nothing worse than inaction.

      • Cassandra says:

        It’s going to be ugly – it’s going to be a monument to a decadent, arrogant sensibility. It will be replaced in 50 years, maybe 100. The new work will not last.

  10. pippo says:

    marioP….is it possible to copy that clip? how can you do it?

    • MarioP says:

      For Youtube there is software which lets you download and save files. For the other one, I suppose you could ‘right click’ and save or, if that fails, ask the dept concerned nicely.

  11. Karl says:

    I think Astrid is losing the plot. From the project brief it transpires that the open space she is after will be located were the bus terminus is today.

    The reconstruction of the Porta Reale will compliment the entrance to Valletta by this open space.

    The existing shabby bus terminus will be transferred further down near the War Monument at the ditch on the way to Castille.

    Unfortunately we are too focussed on criticising everything without taking into consideration that Piano is mastering this project. He is one of the most renowned architects of his time.

  12. red-nose says:

    Let us all understand that even if PL agreed with the Piano Project, they would still say no and the reason is a simple word “ENVY”

  13. joseph p says:

    Interesting that Ms. Vella refers to the Italians as civilised people.

    While she was in Italy, she should have had a look at their countryside (especially in the south) dotted with thousands of developments, both legal and illegal. A laissez-faire approach to development and successive condoni edilizi has wrecked havoc with large stretches of Italian countryside.

    Compared to Italy, the Maltese Islands are heaven on earth as far as developments in the countryside go. This is not so for the FAA know-it-alls who make every ODZ issue seem the end of the world.

    As far as countryside goes, we are far better off than the civilised Italians.

  14. jomar says:

    Ejja Daphne, serrah rasek, Astrid Vella illum iddikjarat (skond it-Times) li l-FAA m’hix kontra il-progett ta Piano!

    Speci qed taghti permess biex il-progett jibda?

  15. mc says:

    Here is someone …

    … who is driven by her ego and who loves to be in the limelight,

    … who blurts out whatever comes to mind very often without checking the facts,

    …. who does not care if what she says will unjustly discredit other people,

    … who calls for resignations of people on flimsy and unjustifed reasons,

    … who asks others like George Debono and Lesley Kreuppl to come to her rescue with offensive letters against anyone who criticises her,

    … who presents her opinions as being those of an expert when in fact she has little or no knowledge on the subject at hand.

    Now that there are people willing to challenge her views, she complains and talks about fear of ridicule and retribution.

    How pathetic!

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