[WATCH] Marsa in 2050: students envision food production, water parks, residential and arts complexes

Architecture students predict how industrial town with a population of under 4,500 and high proportion of unoccupied dwellings in disrepair can be taken out of its decline

Marsa in 2050: students envision regeneration of the area

The regeneration and redevelopment plan of Marsa, one of the biggest industrial hubs locally, has captured the imagination of many in the past, but students of the Architecture and Civil Engineering MA at the University of Malta were given a project to re-imagine Marsa in 2050.

Among the projects presented by the 50 architecture and civil engineering students who will be graduating from the course next year, included the creation of a transport hub, the development of a water park and water treatment facility, new methods to make the area into a food production hub, as well as the creation of an educational academy.

One of the projects even envisaged the conversion of the Power Station site into performing arts facilities inside the underground tunnels, a concert hall and a park on the upper ground.

The event held at Marsa ‘A’ power station, one of the first areas to become operational after the power station was launched in 1953, architecture faculty dean Professor Alex Torpiano said that Marsa’s history was closely linked to its position at the innermost point of the Grand Harbour.

“Over history the pools, flatlands and marshes of the area were gradually converted into a complex of harbour, military and industrial installations, attracting workers to thearea for the new job opportunities. As a result of these developments in recent years, the area became synonymous with Enemalta and with shipbuilding among others.”

But the area is also closely linked to pollution, degradation and dilapidation due to its largely industrial focus. “The town now has a population of under 4,500, with a higher percentage of people over 55 than other areas on the island, as well as a higher proportion of unoccupied dwellings in disrepair,” he said, adding that Marsa 2050 was aimed at preventing the decline of the area and to rediscover opportunities to make the area great.

Torpiano said he believed that the demolition of the power station would be a “mistake” and that it should be repurposed and redesigned for an altogether different purpose. “These industrial heritage mementos would represent the link between the past and the future and become the raison d’etre of the new town of Marsa,” he added.

Prof. Alex Torpiano presenting the vision and projects of his students
Prof. Alex Torpiano presenting the vision and projects of his students
The exhibition, open this weekend, shows the projects for the development of Marsa
The exhibition, open this weekend, shows the projects for the development of Marsa

One of the students, Daniel Attard, explained that the project he had worked on had looked at the economic and social development of the area.  “We believe that a culture of integration, and focusing on creating a space for the arts, will ultimately result in a tapering out of the issues that integration tends to pose now.”

Christopher Azzopardi, whose project focused on water and landscape, said that a water treatment plant in the area could lead to recycling of drainage, and also to a creation of greener spaces. “We envision creating green spaces, both in our roads through things like roundabouts, and bigger parks, to both increase environmental health and to create more natural ways to collect water.”

Neal Vella presented the students’ vision about the idea of producing food in the urban area. He explained that the creation of such an industry would attract more people due to employment opportunities. The project includes wine-making, aquaponic farming and use of algae among others. “The idea is to change the perception towards the industry and to move away from agriculture which requires extensive open spaces, on to a more efficient method.”

Justin Mizzi explored ways to re-use existing industrial buildings for various reasons including entertainment and for residential purposes.

Matthew Muscat said leisure areas could include an open park, with a possibility to connect it to the Valletta Waterfront, as well as areas for performing arts.

Enemalta chairman Frederick Azzopardi it was in the hall of the Marsa ‘A’ power station started operating some 62 years ago, with two boilers providing energy to a post-war Malta. “Now that the old power station has been shut down the conversation has shifted towards, how we can regenerate the zone,” he said, adding that the exhibition showing the students’ projects and models, which would open this weekend, would mark the first time the tunnels were opened to the pubic since the power station was shut down.

The exhibition will be open to the public on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Marsa mayor Frans Debono expressed his hope that the new era would see people shift from an attitude of feeling like the damage was ultimately for the economic benefit of the country to an attitude of opportunity and re-invigorating the area.

Debono added that ultimately people in the area had now become more open to the possibility of re-developing the area. He also suggested that it was a pity that nothing had been done to immediately re-use the area, but he expressed his hope that projects to re-imagine the area would commence straight away.

“It would be a pity for residents to feel like there is nothing else the locality can be known for,” he said, reiterating his hope that the area would see some extensive changes in the coming years.