The President of Malta

Closing speech by His Excellency George Vella, President of Malta, on the occasion of the Malta Architecture and Spatial Planning Awards 2021, Hilton Malta Conference Centre, 26 Feb 2022

Honourable Minister for the Environment, Climate Change & Planning,

Mr Martin Saliba, Chairperson of the Executive Council,

Perit Vincent Cassar, Chairperson of the Planning Board and Chair of the MASP Jury panel,

Distinguished Guests,

It is a pleasure to be here amongst you as we give due recognition to the best projects in the various categories that make up the Malta Architecture and Spatial Planning Awards.  Congratulations to all those shortlisted and to awardees alike. 

I want to take this opportunity to thank the organising team that once again has provided us with another occasion to showcase the best talent that our country has to offer in the field of architecture and spatial planning.  A quick overview of the projects awarded tonight reveals a commonality of creative and forward thinking by all the professionals involved, spread on a panoply of projects. 

This event makes us think of the future, and how present architects, planners and designers through this work and designs, are influencing how our country, our buildings and, our urban and our natural spaces, will be shaped and will look like in the coming years.

When we think of the future, one of the first things that comes to mind is uncertainty.  Nobody can foretell the future, even less so as we have no details about it.  On a global level, we have experienced economic crises, drastic changes in climate, acceleration in environmental degradation and a pandemic.  They have all left their mark or somehow influenced us on a local level.  So how are we to deal with the future in a scientific way?  A way that would help us identify patterns of occurrence and produce projections that would enable us to prepare ourselves to surmount predicted obstacles in the future.

Futures literacy is one such approach.  UNESCO defines it as an universally accessible skill that builds on the innate human capacity to imagine the future in whatever one sees or does.  It therefore enhances our ability to prepare, recover, and re-invent ourselves as change occurs.  This awareness equips us with time to learn of new and sustainable practices that cater for our needs and assures those of future generations.

I see this potential in all of you present here: architects, engineers, designers, administrators and legislators.  All, in your respective fields, are duty bound to ensure that central to your daily practice, is the common good rather than any short-term gains that will only benefit personal or sectorial interests in the long run. 

This thinking and methodology applies to all projects; be it of an industrial nature, or urban dwelling, a school, a shop, a regeneration project or any new project. 

All the submissions for this award, are living proof that it is possible to combine aesthetics, function, form, innovation, efficiency, performance and practicality in any design, whilst also respecting the surrounding natural, built or historic environment. 

The chosen projects are state-of-the-art and serve as an example and guide to others.  I am sure that there are many capable professionals out there who put a lot of time, thought and pride in their designs.  However, we are also aware that there are others who might not be as conscious or reflect deeply enough, on the impact that their work could have on this generation and the ones to come.  Building are meant to last, and to be enjoyed, or degrade the environment, for more than one generation. 

Since the early days of an architect’s formation, guidelines are taught to ensure the efficiency and safety of any project.  Today the profession has evolved, and the technology that aids it is very advanced.  I appeal to all of you working in this field not to disregard established parameters be they structural, aesthetic, functional and environmentally friendly, that were set and developed for valid reasons.  I encourage you to develop them further, and to keep them relevant for current needs and in full respect for those who will follow in your footsteps, as an example to be looked up to.

May I remind you as I did on past occasions, that you are not simply architects of built spaces.  You are architects of lifestyles and on your projects contribute in no small way to the well-being of our people.  You are thus also architects of the citizens’ well-being.

Keep in mind, that contemporary architecture is the heritage we will leave to our future generations.  I want you to keep questioning yourselves in this respect.  How do you want to be remembered in fifty, hundred or four hundred years’ time?

Have a good look around you, and we can easily point out which architectural heritage has enriched our lives for tens and hundreds of years, and that which unfortunately we label as ‘eyesores’. 

We are very lucky to have a very rich historical and industrial heritage.  We take pride in showing it off to all those that take interest in our islands.  Your work, each project you design, is being added to this heritage.  Your projects will leave and indelible mark on our country, adding or diminishing to its beauty.

I want to congratulate all the nominees for the various categories in which awards are being given. I also want to thank the members of the jury and the experts who helped them reach their decisions, which I can imagine was no easy task.

Finally, I want to congratulate the winners of the different awards and wish them all the best in their current and future endeavours.

Let us all then think of the future.

Let us all be architects conscious to provide well-being, aesthetic beauty and comfort, as well as environmentally friendly buildings and projects.

Let your projects serve to embellish and to instill pride.

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