Achieving quality in design

November, 10, 2017

By Perit Vincent Cassar – Chairman Planning Board and President of the Commonwealth Association of Architects


On Friday the 27th October, the second edition of the Malta Architect Awards was held at Villa Arrigo in Naxxar. Sixteen local architects were called up on stage to receive a trophy as a recognition for being the mastermind behind high quality design projects that are shaping our country’s future.

The entire 44 submitted projects were of a high calibre reflecting the change in culture when it comes to architecture and building.

While both the Planning Authority and the architectural profession come under considerable criticism, few are those who stop to appreciate, lesser praise, the emerging work of our local architects.

Criticism is always the easier option. It is more impactful and leaves longer ripple effects. This isn’t to say it is unnecessary. Criticism, when done thoughtfully, is a very valid tool that helps us stop to reflect. But without the necessary justifiable praise and recognition we stifle the potential for professional growth and achievement. Praise where it is due has the power to create a snowball effect and move the bar of quality design to a new level.

Over the past two years, the Malta Architect Awards organised by iMNG Ltd, with the support of the Planning Authority is making marginal inroads by introducing a culture of excellence within the profession. Excellence, cannot and must not remain a clique word which we only aspire to or use in professional forums but needs to become the DNA and mindset by which the profession of architects operates in.  

I would like to see the Kamra tal-Periti embarking on a process of setting the platform and benchmarks by which Periti especially architectural firms can pursue this journey. Pursuing excellence is and will be unique for each professional or firm, but the direction needs to be encouraged, if not set.

I believe that through this pathway, the profession of Architects can make a significant and positive leap forward which can radically change, not only the value of design and architecture across the Island, but more importantly the building industry, in which the profession is a key player. My appeal is for quality design projects, no matter the scope and size to become the rule and not the exception.

Although, as I mentioned earlier, the Planning Authority comes with its fair share of critics, over the past 3 years the Authority has been at the forefront in this area. The PA has not sat back just hoping or preaching about this necessary quality leap. Two major initiatives have been the setting up of the Design Advisory Committee (DAC) and the publication of a design document better known as DC15.  

The DAC assesses all development applications related to urban conservation areas and major projects and makes recommendations in relation to their design. This should lead us to the day when we will see the establishment of Design Review Panels as existing in other countries.

The DC15 which is a collective commitment towards good design in our built environment is a positive document which involved a collaborative process led by the Authority and involved academia, Periti, decision-makers and experts in the fields of sanitary law, transport and conservation.

DC15 instigated a clear departure from the mindset of previous DC guidelines and introduced a new framework composed of policy, good-practice guidance and technical specifications which are helping achieve a good design on the ground. The design document gives enough leeway for innovative and creative urban and architectural designs to be carried out within the unique Maltese urban areas and their landscape.

For this renaissance in quality urban and architectural design to keep rolling on, we need all stakeholders to keep pulling the same rope. We cannot remain short-sighted and settle for projects that are there to make an easy, quick turnover of profits. Quality design requires commitment and conviction that whatever we are going to build, large or small, is there to make a contribution towards improving the quality of life for generations to come.

May I invite you to visit the ongoing exhibition of all the submitted projects that were presented by local architects and interior designers at this year’s Malta Architect Awards. The exhibition is being held at the Parliament Building in Valletta until next Tuesday 14th November 2017.