Wednesday, June 04, 2014


Sometimes great architecture is great because it doesn’t stand out from its context or see itself as a catalyst for a big statement. We saw a wonderful example in Renzo Piano’s reconstruction of the main gates to the fortified town of Valetta on Malta. This is the same Renzo Piano who designed one of the most elegant art museums in the world his poem to ‘demonumentalisation’, the Menil Collection in Houston.

Over the centuries six different gates into Valetta have been built with the pre-Piano one looking like something that one of Mussolini’s architects-to-go came up with on a bad day. Piano looked to the scale and grandeur of the extraordinary fortifications left by the Knights of Malta and inserted forms that connect with them in a way that blurs the historic chasm between the two. It is austere but purposeful. 

Best of all it's opened up parts of Valetta that have been hidden or obscured for years as well as offering sweeping new vistas to the island and to the Mediterranean. Making his structures in tune with the original battlements, crypts and turrets Piano has honoured one of the most beautiful cities in the world in a way it so well deserves.

Images: top, parts of the original fortifications near the gates to Valetta and bottom some of Renzo Piano's additions