More liveable cities need citizens at their heart. The first VARCITIES Online Workshop in Malta focused on bringing various stakeholders together to improve and evaluate our Visionary Solutions and co-create solutions for better health & well-being led by the University of Malta.
The workshop brought together local residents, creatives, architects, educators and people from other backgrounds to share experiences and recommendations for these visionary solutions in the Gzira area.
Having representatives with diverse and specific expertise gave a significantly holistic perspective with regard to the day-to-day challenges experienced by citizens and commuters in Gzira. The lack of green open spaces and pedestrianisation were predominant issues highlighted by participants.
Due to the high density of privatised spaces in Gzira, participants suggested that working with the private sector to incentivise businesses and property owners to work with residents and users could help achieve mutual growth and ensure sustainability of the interventions.
The VARCITIES approach is to empower citizens to be able to contribute to their community so that they can feel a sense of belonging to the place, and be part of the process of change. Inclusion of different communities is crucial in our processes to take into account all their different perspectives. We aim to engage communities in a playful and interactive manner as a form of urban gamification, to create meaningful interactions between place and society in order to achieve better well-being in our living environments.
Spaces for interaction are not only exclusive to public spaces. During the workshop participants stressed the need to use already existing spaces with solid structural integrity to give more opportunities for our citizens to share ideas and organise events. Stakeholders suggested the integration of digital tools and platforms for citizens to interactively assist and inform our research about environmental conditions. Participants will have access to relevant environmental data which will inform and ensure transparency and communication of accurate information.
For the VARCITIES Project, the University of Malta will be implementing three Visionary Solutions, which were introduced to the stakeholders in the workshop:
- The first Visionary Solution is focused on micro-greening interventions and improvement of environmental conditions in Rue D’Argens.
- The second Visionary Solution is aimed at bringing more awareness about air and noise quality by involving citizens in the research process. Sensors will be installed in various locations, mostly within Gzira by collecting and comparing data at different geographical points to identify the various pollutants.
- For the third Visionary Solution, a Community Garden will be constructed at St. Clare Gzira Primary School, using specific plants and trees that can endure the local climate and attract biodiversity, bringing nature closer to our urban environments. Workshops will be organised with school children, NGOs and an artist to instill ecological awareness into our younger generations and co-design an artistic playscape. The garden will provide an open green space to the public after school hours.
Participants were supportive of the Visionary Solutions. In their responses we could see that the problems in the area such as narrow pavements, poor air & noise quality, lack of greenery are persistent problems. In our Visionary Solutions we are trying to improve the current environmental and social conditions of the area. The participants’ constructive suggestions offered us other perspectives and highlighted problems the locality is experiencing.