It is 1565 and the Knights of St John have just recorded a famous victory over the advancing Ottoman Turks by resisting a four-month-long siege against their adopted home of Malta. How do they celebrate? Protracted feasting? Grand displays of vanity and hubris? No, they immediately start building. Galvanised by the fear of further raids, they erect what will become the fortifications for – and are still defining structures of – Valletta, the Maltese capital.
Flash forward a few hundred years and a similar sense of urgency again pervades in the southern Mediterranean island state, even if this time the stakes are not as high. Once more, Valletta stands poised at the brink of an epoch-defining construction project – perhaps the largest in scale since the knights’ initial undertaking. The historical comparison might seem a stretch but Malta is a place in which the past is ever present and it confronts the visitor at almost every turn – something that has led Italian architect Renzo Piano to note that “Valletta is full of ghosts”.
Saturday, March 20, 2010
On the map
April 1st sees the start of a project that will place Valletta on the map. The Financial Times today features the project that will transform the entrance to the city: