Alive and Liveable - Adaptive reuse in Valletta
Dr Antoine Zammit

A city is more than a physical, spatial entity. There are numerous ways to keep a city alive, and relevant, to its citizens and visitors. One influential way is through adaptive reuse strategies, for which Valletta provides an interesting example and test base, not least due to the recent attempts at injecting new life into the City. But does this necessarily make the city liveable? What are the unseen perils? Can redevelopments become new ‘urban catalysts’ within the City and what is the role of the urban spaces that surround them? This lecture reflected these thoughts and identified the manner in which Valletta’s urban fabric may be envisaged in order for it to be a living example of true urban regeneration.


An architect and urban designer by profession, Dr Antoine Zammit holds an undergraduate degree in architecture and civil engineering from the University of Malta (UoM), a post graduate MSc degree in Town and Country Planning and a PhD research in planning and urban design, both from the Bartlett School of Planning, University College London (UCL). He has worked in private practice since 2002 on projects in Italy, the Republic of Ireland and Malta and was further a member on the Planning Appeals Board in Malta between 2006 – 2011. Today he leads his architectural and urban design consultancy, studjurban, and lectures in spatial planning, urban and regional development, urban design, sustainable urban development and urban governance at the Department of Spatial Planning and Infrastructure within the Faculty for the Built Environment, UoM. He has also been invited as a guest lecturer at UCL. He is an active member of the Kamra tal-Periti and the Architects’ Council of Europe (ACE) Urban Issues Work Group, wherein he has recently authored the ACE’s key publication entitled The Role of the architectural profession in delivering responsible design. In the field of planning and policymaking Dr Zammit advises the Malta Environment and Planning Authority on major policy revisions and is the author of the forthcoming key document Development Control Design Policy, Guidance and Standards. He has also delivered papers at numerous international conferences and transnational meetings in the research areas of urban design quality, urban design research methods, urban design policy - making, green urbanism and responsible design.

Knights and Rituals in the Valletta Harbour
Dr Emanuel Buttigieg

‘As the Grand Master boarded the vessel the cry of ‘Long Live the King!’ resounded in the air’.

The Grand Master mentioned here was Pinto; the occasion captured in this phrase was the lavish celebration put on in the Grand Harbour by a French fleet to rejoice at the news that King Louis XV of France had recovered from an illness. All the windows, terraces, ramparts and quays of Valletta, Birgu and Senglea were crammed by people (‘of both sexes’ we are told) eager to witness and participate in this spectacle. For Pinto it was one of the first major public occasions he was taking part in as the Grand Master; for the Order it was one event in a long chain of such splendid instances. 

Over the years that the Order of St John was present in Malta, it instigated a fundamental transformation of the harbour landscape from one of barren emptiness, save for the small medieval outpost of Birgu, to a mighty fortified conurbation. The amalgamation of the natural and the man-made landscape created an impressive ‘floating stage’ upon which the Order could put on shows of power and glory. The Grand Harbour was the gateway into the island order-state of the Hospitallers. This lecture was our gateway that allowed a glimpse into the majesty, magnificence and good taste of ritual in the Grand Harbour of the Hospitallers. This lecture took us back to the time of the Knights and explored how the Harbour landscape changed over the years. 


Emanuel Buttigieg is a Senior Lecturer in early modern history at the Department of History, Faculty of Arts of the University of Malta, where he also co-ordinates the Faculty of Arts M.A. in Mediterranean Studies. His publications include Nobility, Faith and Masculinity: The Hospitaller Knights of Malta, c.1580-c.1700 (London and New York: Continuum, 2011) and as co-editor with Dr Simon Phillips (University of Cyprus) Islands and Military Orders, c.1291-c.1798, (Farnham: Ashgate, 2013). Between 2011 and 2015 he was a Committee members of the Malta Historical Society and he Vice-Presidnt ex-officio of the Malta University Historical Society. 

June 2014:

Defending Valletta's Marsamxett Enceinte - 17th and 18th century proposals and projects for the Isoletto and Dragut Point

Although the building of the mighty fortress of Valletta on the heights of Mount Xeberras solved many of the defence issues which had plagued the Knights of St John ever since they settled down their beleaguered Order in Malta in 1530, the enceinte of their new city also served to create other fresh problems of its own. For one thing, while relatively well protected on its southern Grand Harbour side by the neighbouring strongholds of Birgu,  Senglea, and Fort St. Angelo, the new fortified city was now fully exposed to bombardment and attack along the full length of its northern flank straddling Marsamxett harbour.  Even as the ramparts of Valletta were still taking shape, the Knights quickly began to appreciate the difficulties and challenges posed by the task of securing their city against bombardment and assault from this direction. Already by 1569, various concerns were being raised about the serious threats posed by the promontory of Dragut Point and by the little island jutting out into the middle of Marsamxett harbour, the Isolotto, which, owing to their vicinity to the walls of Valletta, were seen as providing ideal positions from where Turkish batteries could easily bombard the city’s fortifications and its houses in the event of another siege. Various military engineers were set the task of drawing up workable defensible schemes to remedy the situation but none of these would materialize until well into the eighteenth century.

This talk by Dr Stephen C Spiteri looked at the various defence solutions drawn up by the Order’s military engineers throughout the course of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries as they strove to address this inherent weakness in Valletta’s defences. The presentation focuses on the development of the various fortress schemes and designs, with a particular emphasis on the evolution of the plan, design and construction of Fort Manoel.

Across the Fortress - Movement & permeability in Valletta
David Drago delivered a lecture on the transformation of Valletta from a military outpost to a thriving commercial hub in the eighteenth century initiated a drive aimed at improving connections between the town, its harbour and its suburbs. Warehouses, lifts, railways and canal projects over the last two hundred years were engineered to sustain an ever increasing economic activity that manifests itself today in recently realised projects such as the Valletta Waterfront, Barrakka Lift & City Gate.

January 2014:

Valletta Under Siege: "Melted Gold, Brandy and a Pony For a Difficult Child."

Liam Gauci, Curator of the Malta Maritime Museum for the past 6 years, delivered a lecture titled Valletta Under Siege: “Melted Gold, Brandy and a Pony For a Difficult Child.” 1798-1800. This lecture centred on the momentous two years of the French occupation of Malta.  In June 1798 General Bonaparte captured Malta from the hands of the Order of St. John. After only three months, the Maltese rose up in revolution against the French Republican forces. Valletta was besieged and life in the city was drastically changed. Liam Gauci uncovered the various facets of Valletta under siege: the theatrical performances at the Manoel Theater, the food eaten by the French soldiers, the love affairs between French officers and Maltese ladies, the gold and silver ingots cast from melted Maltese bullion and the conspiracy led by a Maltese Corsair. Liam Gauci’s main area of interest is food eaten aboard ships in the early modern world, as well as the impact of the Maltese Corso on Maltese society. His MA Dissertation was entitled: The Activities of Maltese Corsairs between 1775-1798. His most recent published paper is entitled 'The diet of ordinary people and slaves: Malta in the 1590s' published in the book edited by Dionisius Agius: “Georgio Scala and the Moorish Slaves: The Inquisition Malta 1598.”

"Valletta - The Twelve Chambers of Memory"

The second lecture was given by Dr Conrad Thake and provided a kaleidoscope of social historical aspects of the city over time since its inception.  “Valletta – The Twelve Chambers of Memory”  offered an informal overview of how our capital city has changed, transformed and renewed itself over time. It is city born out of a grand vision by the Order of St John that flourished over time, surviving even during times of adversity.  Valletta is an urban stage set where a wide range of human activities unfold. The visual lecture offered a stimulating journey back in time, whilst we ponder and reflect on the collective memory of this great city. Dr Conrad Thake is an architect, urban planner and architectural historian. He is a senior lecturer in the department of History of Art, Faculty of Arts, at the University of Malta.