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Artistic intervention tackles over-development in Sliema

Parking Space Events (Greta Muscat Azzopardi, Johannes Buch and Letta Shtohryn) recently collaborated with Margerita Pulè to produce Il-Kamra ta’ Barra.

The short artistic intervention recreated the atmosphere of a respectable and elegant sitting room in a site adjacent to a large building site in Howard Street, literally bringing the kamra (room) barra (outside).

Offering visitors a comfortable armchair and a drink, Il-Kamra ta’ Barra explored possibilities around the now ever-present building sites that dot the area, and indeed much of Malta.

Passers-by and guests were invited into the kamra ta’ barra and asked how they feel about the changes around Sliema and what they think makes a good neighbourhood.

People were invited to cross the non-existent boundary between ‘outside’ (ie the street) and ‘inside’ (the temporary sitting-room), and to sit and discuss issues of public space, neighbourhoods and urban aesthetics.

Many residents of Sliema and other nearby localities, as well as artists and academics visited the event to experience the outdoor karma ta’ barra and speak to the artists.

Suggestions, thoughts and even predictions were recorded by the artists for possible use in future interventions and to pass on to Sliema Council.

“People complain about construction but then enjoy the money that comes from it” said one passer-by. “We used to live in Sliema but our landlord sold the house” another explained.

Qed nitilfu kollox hawn.” (We’re losing everything over here)

Tas-Sliema kissruha”(They have broken Sliema)

“The national bird of Malta is a crane.”

The project challenges popular concepts of quality of living - what actually makes a neighbourhood a good place to live? It looks at beauty and other aesthetic qualities in a neighbourhood, both outside, and inside. What defines a beautiful wall? And what makes a space a public or a private space?

The old neighbourhood of Sliema, which houses many kmamar ta’ barra, is under attack from rapid over-development, with little regard for quality of life or neighbourhood aesthetics.

Bare concrete walls have replaced elegant facades, while behind them, kmamar ta' barra are obliterated to make way for underground car-parks. At the same time, as reconstruction projects set in, each space undergoes its personal journey, from private, to painfully public, to potentially open and public, to semi-public - as it is worked on - and back to extremely private again.

Borders - first a stone wall, then sometimes nothing, then a metal cage, then a green mesh, sometimes a breeze-block wall, then back to a closed brick or glass wall all play a role in this intimate process.

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