Text and the City

Unorthodox as it could appear to jot down about Vitruvius in a property complement devoted to design, no textual content on the artwork of constructing could be full with out point out of his guide, De architectura, written a while between 30 and 15BC, the oldest and most influential textual content on structure of the final two millennia.

View from the basement Museum of Literature in Valletta.View from the basement Museum of Literature in Valletta.

In his first guide, Vitruvius lists the disciplines which are required to make sure that buildings erected are good ones. “An architect,” he writes, “should be educated in nine disciplinae. He should know writing, be skilled in drawing and trained in geometry. He should be able to recall many histories, listen carefully to the philosophers, not be ignorant of medicine, know music, remember the responses of jurisconsuls and be well acquainted with astrology and the order of the heavens”. But writing comes first, he insists, as a result of writing can “produce a stronger memory”.

How higher to protect an concept, to specific a sense, or to commemorate an occasion than with a guide?


View of the courtyard and apertures, Museum of Literature in Valletta.View of the courtyard and apertures, Museum of Literature in Valletta.

“The book will kill the building,” Victor Hugo declared in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, for “when you compare architecture to the idea, which needs only a sheet of paper, some ink and a pen, is it surprising that the human intellect should have deserted architecture for the printing press?”

Buildings had been the first platform of mass communication, earlier than artwork and music and earlier than language too. The invention of the printing press, later, supplied a worthy successor to the constructing, the guide, that turned for hundreds of years the foremost common device of communication. And similar to the guide killed the constructing, the invention of social media is, for higher or for worse, killing the guide as we speak. 

The reality is that buildings and phrases can nonetheless do what individuals can’t: they will talk up and down the centuries. The unborn inhabitants of the earth’s future, a strong however silent pressure, are but to learn our messages in textual content and stone. And if the threshold of our residing contact with previous generations not often goes additional again than that of our grandparents, what higher method to converse with these misplaced males and girls that lived earlier than the mother and father of our mother and father than by way of their buildings and their texts?


View of the first floor at the Museum of Literature in Valletta.View of the first flooring at the Museum of Literature in Valletta.

If buildings and phrases have the similar noble mission, then, which is that of recording the origins of issues, of offering a way of place and belonging and a supply of kinship, if each function containers for our identification, what higher method to rejoice this widespread calling than by inserting a Museum of Literature in the coronary heart of our capital metropolis?

Buildings and phrases can nonetheless do what individuals can’t: they will talk up and down the centuries

A couple of years in the past, the National Book Council of Malta initiated a regeneration challenge that was conceived as a consequence of this want, that of offering the local people and guests an area to reconnect with their identification and to recharge by way of books and literature. The imaginative and prescient of the Council was to create an oasis for mental stimulation and non secular wellbeing, sheltered from the bustling metropolis that wraps round it and an escape from day-to-day ordinariness. 


The Museum of Literature discovered a house in a historic palazzo in Old Bakery Street in Valletta, itself constituting a story of its very personal that has but to completely unravel. With its masonry partitions and stone slab and timber ceilings and it’s colored partitions and adorned interiors, the vacant and dilapidated constructing is about to get up from a decades-old sleep to regain its erstwhile candour and sense of objective. Although the story of its origins will not be well-known, it’s clear that a part of the property was annexed by the Admiralty in the nineteenth century and the constructing should have adopted the future of its grandiose neighbour on South Street, the residence of the Admiral of the Mediterranean Fleet. 

View of the basement at the Museum of LiteratureView of the basement at the Museum of Literature

Quite a lot of adorned timber ceilings and intricate wall work inside the palazzo are a testomony to the great thing about the as soon as grand, adorned construction, and its luxurious interiors. These are being restored as a part of the rehabilitation of the constructing. An evaluation of mural paint layers attest to the renovations the property underwent all through its existence. As a lot as 13 layers of varied colors had been found on one single wall, whereas on the exterior, the textual content ‘1884’, which was found throughout the façade restoration, is engraved on considered one of the stone pilasters.

Just as the challenge goals at retaining significant traces of the constructing’s historical past as a type of private narrative, the design of multifunctional areas inside the constructing goals at respiratory new life into the structure and, by creating a brand new centre of cultural significance in the capital, at reconnecting the constructing with the metropolis and its individuals. 

Museum of Literature – Rendered view of the bridge and glass extension.Museum of Literature – Rendered view of the bridge and glass extension.

Cities have at all times been essential protagonists in the literature of a nation. Who doesn’t affiliate nineteenth century London with Dickens or its up to date expression with Amis, St Petersburg with Dostoyevsky or Paris with Hugo and Flaubert? Texts and cities are interchangeable. They are one another’s supply of inspiration and greatest expression. 

AP Valletta has been commissioned to hold out the embodiment of this delicate interweaving between textual content and the metropolis in the new Museum of Literature in Valletta. The proposal encompasses 4 mixed-use storeys, together with a basement stage and a rooftop space, the latter re-establishing the hyperlink to the capital by way of the views it enjoys. The basement will turn into an area devoted to guide launches and occasions, outfitted with its personal kitchen space. Hosting a bookshop, a small reception and a eating space, the floor flooring has been designed as a welcoming, calm and casual house, with intimate pockets of house for quiet and remoted studying in symbiosis with the road and the inside courtyard. 

The first flooring will accommodate an interactive and movable exhibition house, along with administration workplaces.

The want for flexibility being a basic premise of the design, modular and movable furnishings models, customizable in accordance with the shopper’s necessities might be the foundation of the new interiors. A palette of historic colors will assure continuity between the new and the historic inside decor.

To complement the fragile great thing about the authentic material, a semi-transparent up to date glass construction will run on the constructing’s inside façade, from floor flooring all the approach as much as roof stage, turning into the visible coronary heart of the challenge, in addition to a landmark for the metropolis.

Museum of Literature – Rendered view of the courtyard.Museum of Literature – Rendered view of the courtyard.

The terrace is maybe the place the place literature, the metropolis, and the lifetime of its inhabitants greatest intermingle. Here, the authentic idea of the city is distinct and preserved in stone, blurred by the profusion of water tanks, air con models and antennas. Men’s actions, huge and small, pile up throughout, mixing right into a wealthy composition of kinds and textures, subdued by the passage of time. From this standpoint, the tactile messages on Valletta’s partitions are destined to be learn by numerous future guests standing at the roof line of the Museum, indicators that can turn into the backdrop to the tales of tomorrow.

View from the roof.View from the roof.


Words: Konrad Buhagiar, Charlene Jo Darmanin

Photos: AP Valletta

Project crew

David Felice (structure & inside)

Rory Apap Brown

Emre Ungor


Charles Sciberras

Federica Calio 


Guillaume Dreyfuss

Charlene Jo Darmanin

Elena Zammit

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