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-centred 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. Follow the Valletta Design Cluster on Facebook and Instagram to be constantly updated on the progression of the project!
The Makerspace is a fully-equipped workshop that forms an integral part of the Valletta Design Cluster. Located on the ground floor of the Valletta Design Cluster, the Makerspace will be equipped with an extensive inventory related to prototyping in metalworking, woodworking, textiles, electronics, casting and moulding, computer-aided design, CNC milling, cutting, routing, 3D printing and embroidery.
The Makerspace will provide you with space, equipment and supporting expertise for projects that require the use of tools and technical skills. Whether you’re a student, a resident, an individual artist or artist collective, a maker, a designer, a practitioner-in-residence, a researcher, a creative start-up, or a cultural and creative enterprise or organization, the space is accessible for you to make use of for your projects!
2. Food Space
The Food Space is a dedicated area in the Valletta Design Cluster for food-based activity, aimed at supporting community projects centred around food as well as supporting food-based initiatives, start-ups, community events and related activities. Located on the ground floor of the Valletta Design Cluster, this facility includes a fully-equipped kitchen space, a café area, a kitchen with nine stations which can be used for education purposes, and a canteen, together with food storage areas.
Use of this space may range from creative workshops and cooking classes to team building activities and individual cooking. A canteen service for the Cluster’s users and a dining area will also be part of this space. If you are holding an event or a meeting at the Cluster’s Conference Room or one of its meeting areas, the Food Space can serve as the main catering facility (connected through a food lift).
3. International Project Labs
The International Project Labs consist of two townhouses on Bull Street, an integral part of the Cluster’s core facilities and services. They are fully equipped to accommodate up to eleven residing practitioners (four single bedrooms and two dormitories of three and four beds each), complete with self-catering facilities and shared bathrooms. The project labs are immediately adjacent to the main building of the Valletta Design Cluster and as such provide direct and convenient access to all the facilities within the main building and, most importantly, to the community of users and practitioners frequenting the facility.
These facilities are multifunctional and can serve as residence spaces for visiting international practitioners and artists directly linked to the activities of the Valletta Design Cluster. The labs can provide users with short-term dedicated space for project development, meeting areas, small workshops, and a logistics base.
4. The Roof Garden
The Roof Garden is a new public space in Valletta, covering the full roof space over the main building of the Valletta Design Cluster. The Roof Garden will include a roof pavilion (for meetings/workshops at roof level), a small pond, a kids’ area, seating for small groups, two multifunctional spaces for small group meetings or open-air workshops, and, of course, green spaces with mostly local trees and shrubs on most of the roof area. The Roof Garden is fully accessible by lift and by stairs and will be publicly accessible during standard opening hours.
This space is a green lung for residents and visitors to the city. The best way to use it is to visit, relax and enjoy! The Roof Garden also includes facilities that can be used for small meetings or workshops, especially if these are linked to educational green initiatives. We invite you to be innovative and approach us with ideas on how this space can contribute to the wellbeing of its users, residents and the general public.
5. Meeting Spaces and Conference Room
The Valletta Design Cluster will have five fully-equipped meeting spaces of various capacities, ranging from small consultation rooms to medium-sized meeting rooms, all with flexible set-up features. The Valletta Design Cluster will also have a fully equipped conference room with a seating capacity of eighty persons. The conference room is connected to the ground floor by lift and is fully accessible to mobility-impaired users. It is also serviced separately through a food lift to the kitchen on the ground floor.
The meeting rooms or the conference facilities may be booked for community and neighbourhood meetings, lectures and seminars, as well as teamwork sessions and workshops. The conference room can host larger events, including seminars and lectures, and can also be split into two equal, separate and independently accessed spaces through a retractable partition. These spaces may also be used for non-lecture type activities, such as exhibitions.
The Studios are fifteen dedicated and independently accessed rooms, all located on the first floor of the Valletta Design Cluster, aimed at serving as creative spaces for longer-term tenants of the Cluster. They consist of nine smaller rooms (dimensions L 5.8m, W 3.2m, H 4.3m), eight of which have an internal mezzanine accessed via a retractable ladder, and three larger rooms (L 5.8m, W 7.9m, H 4.4m) which can also be partitioned into (six) smaller units. All rooms are accessible via the main lift, and access is controlled via the electronic management system of the Cluster. Rooms will be provided with electricity, water, internet, tables, chairs and basic storage.
The space allows users to customise the individual studios and use the space for any cultural, social, creative and practice-based activity that is compatible with the general approach of the Cluster. The Studios can host a variety of different activities, ranging from cultural and creative practice, to activities which aim at having a positive social impact, to start-up projects, all with a focus on collaboration and exchange with other people who are active inside and outside the Valletta Design Cluster, possibly also in the form of sharing a Studio.
7. Coworking Space
The Valletta Design Cluster will include up to twenty co-working stations equipped with desk plug-in services, basic storage, a dedicated small video conferencing room and a lounge space. The Coworking Space is located on the ground floor of the building next to the Makerspace, and shares with the latter an external seating area in the central courtyard.
Those in need of a space where to work independently for a few hours or days can make use of the co-working facilities of the Valletta Design Cluster within an open-plan layout shared with others. Students, freelancers, creative practitioners, and visitors to Valletta requiring a basic work space may benefit of these co-working stations, which will also serve as a hub of cultural and creative activity.
8. The Central Courtyard
The Central Courtyard is the main ground floor public space between the two blocks of the building, formerly part of lower Old Mint Street. Traditionally an open space, this area will now become an all-season multifunctional space thanks to a retractable glass canopy which shelters the whole length of the central courtyard, but which can also be opened to allow for free and natural circulation of air. The space is very versatile in usage and will be furnished with loose and re-configurable seating facilities. The whole courtyard is fully accessible on the ground floor level and can be acceded to via the main entrance on Bull Street or from St Charles Street.
This space may be used for both work and recreation. The courtyard is an ideal location for exchange among the Valletta Design Cluster communities and the informal seating spaces can be changed and adjusted to host different activities and events. These can include temporary art and design exhibitions, public events, informal meet-ups, cultural events and community meals.