URBAN FABRIC by the Design Team OPEN SQUARE COLLECTIVE will represent Malta at the next London Design Biennale in 2023

In its capacity as Commissioner, Arts Council Malta, under the auspices of the Ministry for the National Heritage, the Arts and Local Government, earlier this year published a call for the engagement of a Design Team to represent Malta at the London Design Biennale in 2023, being held at Somerset House, a historic building in central London.

An evaluation board comprising of experts in the sector, including also the director of the London Design Biennale itself, assessed the proposals received and unanimously decided that URBAN FABRIC was the best project to represent Malta in London.


URBAN FABRIC- THE CONTEXT

“To make inside concrete and outside

vast is the first task, the first problem, it

would seem, of an anthropology of the

imagination. But between concrete and

vast, the opposition is not a true one.”

Gaston Bachelard (1994: 215)

 

Ancient writings tell us that the ancient Phoenicians, especially those living in Tyre and Sidon, were renowned for their textile production. In particular, they were famed for the way that they managed to dye their wool and linen garments using two major types of sea-snail species which are common along the Mediterranean shores: the Murex trunculus and the Murex brandaris; other sea-snails were also used (National Museum of Archaeology, Valletta). ‘The existence of a textile industry in Malta is amply documented by the ancient writers both for the Roman and, by logical extension, to the Punic period’ (Bonanno, 2005: 109).

URBAN FABRIC’ juxtaposes ancient Phoenician traditions with a hypothetical village map, whereby space is physically delineated by the delicate fragility of purple-dyed fabrics. The poetic layers underpinning our proposed project are driven by a strong ecocritical approach that seeks not only to pass a comment about the natural and built environment, but to actively promote sound ecological values.

URBAN FABRIC’ is made from organic and sustainable materials which can be easily recycled and repurposed. Great care will be taken to approach the design from a sustainable viewpoint and to responsibly encourage current and future generations to foreground the earth in their aesthetic considerations. The proposed installation allows for audience engagement as visitors will be encouraged to ‘walk through’ it, to directly experience the space inside, and around it, in an embodied way, to navigate, and to find way ins and outs of it. Like a Maltese village, it will imbricate ancient history with contemporaneity, light and shade, open and enclosed spaces and a strong sense of place and time. The installation considers the work of anthropologist Tim Ingold as its starting point - ‘Knowledge of the world is gained by moving about in it, attending to it, ever alert to the signs by which it is revealed’ (2000: 55).


CONCEPT & DESIGN BY OPEN SQUARE COLLECTIVE

ABOUT OPEN SQUARE

Open Square is a design collective consisting of four members: Luke Azzopardi; Alessia Deguara; Trevor Borg and Matthew Joseph Casha. All team members are specialised in their respective fields ranging from architecture and visual art to spatial design, textile/fashion design, project management and creative direction. Some of the team members have collaborated together on high profile local and international projects and together they bring a wealth of experience and innovative ideas to the table. The main tenets that underpin the philosophy of the team stem from thorough research, innovation and a heightened sense of attention to detail, for both aesthetic and contextual considerations. The team’s philosophy is strongly driven by ecological concerns and an urgent need for sustainable design and respect towards the world. The environment is at the forefront of what they do both as a team and individually within their respective fields of expertise. Through their work they strive to encourage discourse about the environment by presenting well researched, thought provoking creative projects that combine aesthetic and spatial awareness with activism.

 

EVALUATION BOARD MEMBERS

Victoria Broackes

Director of the London Design Biennale, Somerset House, London

Perit André Pizzuto

Architect and President of the Malta Chamber of Architects and Engineers

Perit Jevon Vella

Conservation Architect and Deputy Director of the Institute for The Creative Arts, MCAST

Caldon Mercieca

Former Manager at the Valletta Design Cluster 

Eric Fenech

Director Corporate Affairs, Arts Council Malta

Chaired by Mary Ann Cauchi, Director Funding and Strategy, Arts Council Malta

 

MALTA DESIGN TEAM BIONOTES

LUKE AZZOPARDI

Textile/Fashion Designer | Creative Direction

Luke Azzopardi is a couturier and multidisciplinary artist from Victoria, Gozo. After studying at Central Saint Martins and the University of Malta, he launched his eponymous brand. The Luke Azzopardi studio focuses on the idea of timeless elegance stemming from Azzopardi’s academic background in costume history. The creative director was awarded the prestigious ‘Premio Cultura e Moda 2016’ by L’Istituto Italiano di Cultura, the ‘Fashion Designer of the Year 2018’ award by LovinMalta, and has most recently been shortlisted for a number of Premju ghallArti by Arts Council Malta. The nature of Azzopardi’s work looks to fashion as an art object. The multi-mediatic methodology of the studio has led to the creation of contemporary statements beyond the consumable, commercial tendencies of the fashion world, towards the layered, complex potentialities of the art object. In 2022, Azzopardi published his book Għonnella: Deconstructing the Garment.

ALESSIA DEGUARA

Junior Architect | Designer | Project Assistant Manager

Alessia Deguara recently graduated with a Master in Architecture (Architectural Design) from the University of Malta with a focus on anthropology and community driven architecture. As part of her Bachelors Degree in Built Environment, she also attended the University of Politecnico di Milano in 2018. Currently, Alessia is a Junior Architect at Createit Studio, where she specializes in local residential spaces and landscaping design projects. Spatial interior architecture is an area which Alessia is particularly interested in, especially when it responds to and reflects the needs of the individuals.

MATTHEW JOSEPH CASHA

Architect | Project Manager | Creative Direction

Matthew Joseph Casha is an Architect and Civil Engineer specialising in architectural and spatial design. Having graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering and Architecture in Malta, Matthew pursued his studies with a Masters Degree in Construction Project Management in Aberdeen, Scotland. Before founding his own studio in 2016, Matthew worked on several major national projects, which involved integration of spatial planning with high end detailed design. Besides practising architecture, Matthew is also experienced in project leadership, as well as in the organisation of local design exhibitions and festivals, such as Malta Design Week 2012 and 2014; and was also the architect and designer for the highly successful Maltese Pavilion for the Venice Art Biennale 2019.

TREVOR BORG

Artist | Academic | Creative Direction

Trevor Borg is a multi-disciplinary artist and Head of Department of Digital arts at the University of Malta. He holds a PhD in Fine Art practice from the University of Leeds and his work spans across a diverse range of media from drawing and painting to sculpture, film, and installations. His work has been shown in numerous museums and galleries internationally including the 58th edition of the Venice Biennale, the Beijing International Art Biennale 2022 and in various other countries including Malta, Germany, France, the Netherlands, England, Italy, Austria, Belgium and Spain. He is a member of the creative practice-led research network LAND2, curator of various exhibitions including Contemporary Inside (2018), Shifting Contexts I (2018) and Shifting Contexts II (2022) and author of a number of articles and academic papers.

RAMONA DEPARES

PR & Communications Specialist | Journalist | Writer

Ramona Depares is a veteran name on the Maltese cultural landscape, active both as journalist and artist. For close to a decade she was the editor of the Arts & Culture pullout on the Sunday Times of Malta, responsible for cementing the first fully-fledged cultural section on mainstream media. Under her tenure, the section grew into a 24-page supplement with autonomy from the run-off paper, with a team of journalists focusing on Maltese and international coverages. She introduced investigative cultural journalism to Malta, receiving the Award for Cultural Journalism as soon as it was introduced in 2015. Depares has published two books under the Merlin Publishers imprint. Today, she runs her own digital portal, focused on arts and culture - established in 2019, the site has become the industry’s go-to for cultural journalism and reviews. She collaborates regularly with artists and practitioners, and has delivered marketing services to various clients within the sector, including Teatru Malta, Spazju Kreattiv and Festivals Malta among others.

GILBERT MICALLEF

Auditing & Accounts

Gilbert Micallef has been working in the field of accounting and auditing for 19 years. He set up his private practice in 2014. As an accountant, he is advising clients regularly on different aspects of business ranging from compliance, financing, start-ups, restructuring, stateaid opportunities and the setting up and the maintaining of a functioning back office. As a tax practitioner, he is advising and assisting clients as to their Tax, VAT and FSS obligations. He is also a registered and practicing auditor. Gilbert services various sectors including Tourism, EU funding, Arts Foundations, Artists, Media Companies, Insurance, Finance, Retailers/Wholesalers and Medical suppliers. He is a member of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, Malta Institute of Accountants and the Malta Institute of Management.