Gzira Malta2024-05-23T13:55:14+02:00

Gzira, Malta

The City

Gzira is a small town in the central region of Malta with a population of over 13.000 people. It is heavily populated and largely comprises of built up areas and narrow streets. Given its prime location (between the capital city of Valletta and Sliema) a bustling seaside town filled with fancy restaurants, shops and nightlife — it has gained popularity for the Maltese and immigrants alike. Gzira is also next to the University of Malta, thus making it a great location for students. Its diversity is reflected in the myriad of restaurants and ethnic shops established over the past several years. However, the accelerating urban development has led to diminishing green public space. The increasingly busy city is also struggling with high levels of air and noise pollution.

The pilot

The pilot site is a high traffic road called Rue D’Argens. Flanked by residential and office buildings on both sides, the road sees constant traffic and has little to no greenery. Part of the site has been earmarked for potential high-rise development and consists of some of Malta’s tallest buildings, including a 18-storey apartments block. Like many roads in Malta, priority is given to parking. Implementation of nature-based solutions will include the installation of a natural playscape at St Clare’s primary school, the greening of a bus stop on Rue D’Argens, the measurement of air quality in the locality and the installation of pop up parks.

The local council is committed to improve air quality through nature-based solutions, envisioning urban regeneration through greening interventions. The pilot site will contribute to the improvement of air quality and reduction of noise pollution, targeting the promotion of a healthy lifestyle (physical activity, recreation, relaxation, sense of safety, psychological benefits).

VARCITIES will finance three Visionary Solutions.

The local council is also committed to support co-design and transition management approaches for their development, promoting active citizenship, engagement and participation in the implementation of nature-based solutions.

Several workshops were already organised:

  • Three workshops with school children to develop the concepts behind the St Clare’s playscape. Through accessible activities children were asked to develop and record their ideas.
  • Workshops were also carried out with the teachers and the parents, and at every stage as the designs were developed they were presented to the school.
  • Stakeholder workshops were also carried out with local citizens to see what interventions they envision for the wider area.

The Visionary Solutions

VS 1: Rue D’Argens: Micro-greening Interventions through a Participatory Design Process

Following a series of field observations to evaluate the current urban conditions of Rue D’Argens, property-owners and businesses on this street will be invited to contribute to the Varcities project through micro-greening NBS interventions. Such interventions include the greening of balconies, facades and interiors of households to raise awareness about the benefits of green solutions to our H&WB. Another possible intervention in the same street is the greening of two long walls to increase vegetation, improve the visual aesthetics of the streetscape and attract biodiversity into our urban settings. The latter could also be done through the greening of bus stop roofs located in Rue D’Argens, or others. Furthermore, users of the space and local community members will be consulted through focus groups to collect first hand information about the needs of the locality and inform them of possible NBS to implement greening into their properties. The data will be evaluated and discussed with the local municipality to explore ways in which they can be improved.

VS 2: Citizen Science on Air/Noise quality to increase H&WB awareness

Sensors are to be installed at various locations, mostly within Gzira, to collect and compare data at different geographical points to identify the various pollutants and the amount of noise and air pollution there is in the area. The locations of the installed sensors are the Gzira Gardens, Rue D’Argens and at the University of Malta as a reference point. Handheld sensors (indicated as light blue on the map) will be provided to citizens who will be interested in participating in the data collection of pollutant measurements. The latter introduces an element of civic action that gives citizens scientific means of engaging. We will also be considering other means of engaging users of the space through barcode scanning, which can be carried out using mobile device applications to provide them information related to pollution, NBS interventions and their H&WB benefits or even to give them access to the H&WB platform. All gathered data will be stored on a dedicated and confidential database.

VS 3: Urban Biodiversity, Education and Engagement through a Co-Created Community Garden Project

NBS interventions and citizen engagement activities will be implemented at the St. Clare Primary School and Gzira Gardens with the intention of embedding a greener perspective into our educational institutions and cultural context. Particular plants are being selected to attract birds and insects, bringing nature closer to our urban environments and instill ecological awareness into our younger generations. A Community Garden will be constructed at the school, which will eventually become accessible to the public, contributing to their mental, physical and social wellbeing through greening interventions and integrating the concept of urban gamification of a playscape. During the redevelopment of the Gzira Gardens, a form of citizen engagement approach and possibilities of NBS will be considered together with the Gzira municipality and developers to promote a co-creative attitude towards local planning and development.

The Visionary Plan on VARCITIES Health & Well-Being Platform

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