How do we dwell?

Architecture studios Local Office, Openworkstudio and Valentino Architects lend their voices to the Housing, Dwelling, Thinking Workshop discussions.

‘An Ordinary House, Dar Bla Ħitan’, by Openworkstudio

An Ordinary House, Dar Bla Ħitan, is a proposal for an integrative and therapeutic program intended to provide support to inmates and their families.

It responds to transgressions and trauma, offering those serving the last few months of their sentence, a home outside their cells, within the community. The home provides individuals a space of transition, where they may learn to understand and respond to personal and social responsibilities.

The project introduces a different perspective on the narrative of dwelling, which acknowledges that dwelling is universal yet particular to its lived experience.

Dwelling may be considered a way of navigating through our environments, where both the navigation and the environments are influenced by internal and external references particular to each individual. To fully imagine an individual’s experience requires that we experience their story through their own eyes. A healthy curiosity and empathy with the life of a prisoner, will reveal a multitude of potential responses to the question of “how do we dwell?”

Although the conditions of the project diverge from the ideas of a traditional home, or a family and the setting of a family residence, the principles of dwelling still apply. The residents are encouraged to become familiar with living in a shared home after their experience in confined spaces and solitude and after their pre-offence experiences. They are presented with an opportunity to grow personally, to form meaningful relationships and to become part of a greater whole, the dwelling. Through the medium of a home and the ritual of healthy dwelling, a community develops in which individuals support and find value in one another.

With the development of this community the negotiation of space starts to occur in different spheres, from a personal to a collective level, leaving behind traces of their negotiations.

The project makes reference to the ordinary house which finds value in that which is mundane, where the daily chores of washing the floors, the dishes, preparing a meal and growing your plants instill a sense of responsibility and become meaningful rituals that sustain both the individual and the community.

Openworkstudio is collaborating with Mid-Dlam Ghad-Dawl and the Housing Authority on the project to ensure that Dar Bla Ħitan achieves the right conditions of dwelling for its intended residents.

Program: Specialised housing for former prison inmates and their families
Location: Birgu, MALTA
Status: Planning Permit Phase, 2020
Drawings: Openworkstudio

‘Threeplusone’ by Valentino Architects

Threeplusone replaces a dilapidated single-storey dwelling on a historic thoroughfare through two of Malta’s most beloved villages. Conceived as a place for comfortable, contemporary living, it prioritises light, space and functionality whilst giving back stylistically to its inherited street-scape. The three-storey apartment block was designed to work in harmony with its context – the untiring Mediterranean light and temperature and the building’s immediate urban surroundings. The existence of a Modernist corner house directly opposite became a constant point of reference, prompting a design that echoed its elegance of massing, volume and proportion.

Threeplusone’s facade was designed to radiate thermal efficiency, rendered entirely in a silicato finish that reflects sunlight and recalls the tradition of bleach-white coastal architecture. It is stripped of decoration save for its large openable sliding apertures and recessed terraces that linearly punctuate the upper levels. The latter provide coveted shaded outdoor space and allow light to cascade into the south-facing living areas at the front of the building. The apertures work in dialogue with the corner house across the street, framing direct views of its distinct facade. Built using thermablock and reinforced concrete, Threeplusone’s distinct curved projections echo the articulation of the street, bending subtly as they curl along the corner site. The projections maximise the size of the interior spaces and shade the building’s lower floors. At street level, the site’s perimeter is lined with trees, providing privacy to the semi-basement’s office space.

Inside, the building maximises usable space and works to achieve continuity between indoor and outdoor areas. Living areas are pulled towards the terraces, whilst bedrooms and utility rooms fan out in the direction of a rear corner courtyard, drawing in light and facilitating ventilation. Each floor-plan reflects the needs of present day, urbane homeowners, with spacious entrance halls, wash-rooms, concealed drying terraces, and en suite bathrooms off each bedroom. Threeplusone prioritises rationality, simplicity of form, and understated luxury. It works to communicate a design language that’s driven by sensitivity, elegance, and utility. Its intention is to humbly introduce an exemplar approach to small-scale residential design – an advocate for architecture that is considerate yet unmistakably confident.

Program: Apartment Block
Location: Balzan, Malta
Status: Completed, 2018
Structural Design: Perit Ivan Muscat
Photography: Alex Attard, Julian Vassallo

‘Dar Terry’ by Local Office

Dar Terry, the Richmond Foundation’s first housing project containing areas of specialised programmes, is coming into fruition in a building in Cospicua, undergoing refurbishment by Local Office. Once complete the building will be handed over to the Richmond Foundation where it will run its Mother and Child Therapeutic Programme.

Local Office were the winners of a design competition with the Chamber of Architects, where participants were tasked to design a house specifically for those living in it. This is part of a wider housing project which will see derelict government buildings transformed into social housing projects made for and run by the NGOs that have applied for the pilot project, using them for their specific purposes.

Dar Terry, named after the late personality and radio host Terry Farrugia, who lost his battle to a rare form of leukaemia, specifically serves the Mother and Child Therapeutic Programme which will give funds to families to allow mothers primarily with mental health problems to get care they need.

Through Dar Terry, individual based policy is gradually shifting towards a family-based approach. It was found during consultation with service users that mothers would many a time worry what would happen to their children if they were ever admitted into care, and the children would long to remain with their parent

The project will be divided into three phases: i. The assessment and transition of the unit with the help from community resources including local councils, Jobsplus and health centres. ii. Establishing the potential of the mother and children and commencing the work towards independent living as well as eventually finding permanent housing. iii. Transitioning into the community.

Program:  Mother and Child Therapeutic Housing Program
Location: Bormla, Malta
Status: Site Works in Progress, 2020
Drawings: Local Office