The Valletta Design Cluster within the Valletta Cultural Agency — a legacy project of Valletta 2018, European Capital of Culture — is a community space for cultural and creative practice situated in the renovated Old Abattoir (Il-Biċċerija l-Antika) in Valletta. It focuses on design, entrepreneurship and social impact, while supporting and promoting user-centered design as a catalyst for innovation and as a multi-disciplinary approach that can create positive impacts for communities and individuals.
The Valletta Design Cluster’s aim is that of providing space and opportunities to Malta’s burgeoning cultural and creative operators. It is a project steeped in the rich history of Valletta, providing a bridge between 450 years of urban activity and the city’s future. The key human contributors to this major regeneration effort are Valletta’s residents and neighbouring communities together with cultural and creative professionals in design-intensive practices.
The Valletta Design Cluster is harnessing this energy, tapping into national and European funds and expertise in the creative economy, and building on the legacy of Valletta 2018. When completed, the space will include dedicated resources and areas for co-working, a fully equipped makerspace, meeting rooms and conference facilities for seminars, workshops and adult learning, a food space, studios for long-term tenants, and a new public roof garden covering the roof of the building. The Valletta Design Cluster will also have its own practitioner in residence spaces, with two apartments that can double up as international project labs for visiting creative practitioners, makers and researchers.
THE OLD ABATTOIR
The site of the Old Abattoir (il-Biċċerija l-Antika) in Valletta has been identified for regeneration and conversion into the Valletta Design Cluster. The Old Abattoir is one of Valletta’s earliest buildings, but has undergone many changes since its first use as an abattoir in the 17th century. During the early 18th century, the building was used as residences and soldiers’ barracks and, following that, light industrial uses were introduced, including cotton spinning and bakeries, with some of the bakers’ ovens still in use until the late 1980s and in evidence on site to this day. Although earmarked for housing improvement in the latter part of the 20th century, the identified interventions never took place and the building has stood in an advanced state of disrepair for the past decade.
Following a three-year process of community engagement in the development of the concept and in-depth analysis of the needs of the sector, as well as interaction with the various communities that constitute the living link between the vibrancy of Valletta’s past and future, the major works on the conversion of the Old Abattoir site into the main base of the Valletta Design Cluster took off in 2017. The project’s strategic objective is to contribute to the urban regeneration efforts being carried out by the government in the mainly residential, Marsamxett side of Valletta, and specifically to improve social, cultural and economic well-being through investment in improved cultural infrastructure that generates new common spaces for the community to interact, as well as sustained economic activity and employment.
The project is being supported by the European Regional Development Fund, which is allowing the regeneration of the physical space for the Valletta Design Cluster and the urban public spaces around it.