by Stanley Farrugia Randon
Before discussing high-rise buildings, a definition has to be established on what we actually mean by high-rise. According to me a high-rise building is one which goes one or more stories higher than that allowed by the building practice, policies and aesthetics of the surrounding, including its visibility from the sea. In Malta, high-rise is anything above 10 storeys high.
This definition can vary according to the area under discussion but in the case of Malta one has to consider the small size of the island and the visibility from the sea.
High rise building has been made possible by the invention of lifts and building material which is cheaper and more accessible.
Shadows cast by tall buildings decrease natural light. Lack or decreased natural light is known to lead to more depressive episodes. It also leads to decreased Vitamin D which the body produces from the skin as a result to natural light exposure.
Reduction in fresh air circulation and increased air pollution due to increased traffic leads to increasing rates of asthma and cancer.
Policies which allow such buildings will only turn Malta into a building area causing all the inconveniences – we saw this when the master plan for certain places such as H’Attard was changed losing many terraced houses and turning the places into a building area. This resulted in dirtier and dustier roads.
Photovoltaic panels and Solar Water Heaters on roofs are the most viable renewable energy systems in sunny Malta. Shadows cast by high rise buildings minimise the exploitation of this natural resource.
An orderly and pleasing arrangement of buildings leads to a harmonious aesthetically beautiful environment.
Residents who see buildings which are not harmonious with the surrounding on a regular basis tend to adapt to such sightings and get used to them. Sometimes people are also influenced by political brainwashing and economic gains and so relate the building to these factors. As examples I can mention Tigne, the parliament and the law court buildings in Valletta. These structures could look harmonious to its surroundings if they were built in another place. Contrary to residents, tourists get a first impression of what they see and they are in a better position to judge such buildings.
High-rise buildings could not be harmonious or aesthetically pleasing to the average tourist who comes to our islands to experience another culture where even our buildings should reflect our national identity.
We should always keep in mind that we are an island and so many tourists view our islands from cruise liners and when on boat trips. We should look how our island looks from within but also from the sea.
How can you have a tall building in a narrow street? Such streets will be inevitably busier with cars coming out of the underground garages and people leaving or entering the place.
High rise buildings will mean that the residential capacity of our small island will increase. But this also means an increasing strain on our public services. Our Police force, our Armed Forces, our law courts, schools and ancillary educational services and our Health services are already overstretched with many tourists, legal and illegal immigrants flooding these services. Water services, electricity, drainage systems and refuse amenities are also stretched to the limit.
Limited access to road networks, increasing car congestion and less parking spaces will inevitably lead to more stress waiting in traffic and attempting to find parking spaces.
More people living in a common building with common parts also leads to more stressful situations and friction between people sharing a common place with less privacy.
Values and Tradition
Traditional building and decorative elements are inevitably ignored in high-rise buildings. There is an inevitable deterioration in community values and traditional values also tend to be discarded.
If high-rise buildings will only serve to increase the overall economic growth of the island and benefit only a few people economically, the rest will be negatively effected and will find less public services available. Many people around the world are realising that globalism, capitalism and false economic growth of countries is only leading to disaster and they are voting for nationalism. This, in my opinion, explains the electoral results in Britain and America.
Rather than investing on new buildings, government should encourage restoration and the use of abandoned buildings.
DLH is criticised for not always treating cases on a similar basis. DLH has always reacted to high-rise buildings, organising street protests, writing letters on newspapers and meeting influential persons on the matter. However the intensity with which DLH reacted in different cases depends on its financial position and on volunteers investing their free time in HEP issues.