De Montfort University Architecture Students Design for Historic Malta

Glass Shop 1 smallIt’s that time of year again and our group of MArch Architecture students working with the Digital Building Heritage Group have completed their designs for their adaptive re-use projects in Malta which they visited for a week in January 2016. Ranging from a glass workshop and high-end sales boutique to a winery and new medical library and archive, this year’s crop of projects have allowed DMU’s architecture students to explore how new, modern architecture can be sensitively and carefully adapted to fit into historic settings, in this case the UNESCO world heritage site of the Three Cities and Valletta. All the students spent a week exploring these magnificent cities and focussing on single buildings or structures that required adaptations to give them new life and a better chance of being preserved. Careful thought was given to the current economic and social context in which Malta finds itself and the opportunities as well as challenges this is bringing. Difficult questions were asked about the degree of adaptation, what should be preserved and what, if anything might be sacrificed. Conservation techniques were examined, particularly in relation to the marvellous limestone from which virtually all the historic buildings in the area are made and the issues of weathering and chemical erosion which affect them. Being speculative projects a degree of imagination was exercised in proposing new uses for historic buildings and interestingly, although they had the option to do so, none of the students designed a museum, all of the projects had a commercial or other operational function. This was not deliberate but it goes to show that historic cities of international importance do not have to be pickled in aspic as purely heritage tourist destinations, they can be living, economically successful communities. These were some of the ambitions for the student’s projects and irrespective of the degree to which individual students met them they have all gained a deep appreciation of the value of material and cultural heritage, historic architecture and the role that sensitive design for heritage sites can play in shaping better urban futures. We hope that our students continue to develop these interests and we look forward to more De Montfort University architecture students next year entering this programme to work on new architectural heritage projects with us. Lalan 2Boat Building Ac SmallMed Library 1 banner3D Printed Models Banner

About Douglas Cawthorne

Reader in Digital Heritage at De Montfort University.
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