Europe is celebrating Car-Free Day this week. Across the continent, populations have been striving over the years to liberate their living spaces from the autocracy of the car. In fact, since the early 1960s, a growing number of European cities have become more people-centred by actively reducing the influence of the car, dedicating whole areas of their town centres to the pedestrian and rendering them permanently car-free.
Architect Konrad Buhagiar, partner at aoM, the architects entrusted with the design at Tigné Point, pointed out that authorities both locally and internationally are starting to understand the benefits of urban schemes that shut off areas to traffic thus reducing the negative side effects of congestion and pollution. “Since Midi plc, the developers at Tigné Point, are creating what is ostensibly a small town, we were able to design it around a core which will provide a vital psychological and physical centre to the place.”
It is often cities that have a central core that lend themselves naturally to their conversion to a pedestrian zone. Indeed, the ‘pjazza’ in Malta has always been the focal part of the community, providing a natural venue for social interaction, assembly, and for a wide variety of social and cultural events.
The familiar concept of a central square was developed to provide a nucleus around which various public areas at Tigné Point could be designed. Measuring approximately 2,500 square metres, Pjazza Tigné is around the same size as Piazza Regina in Valletta. Moreover, it is situated directly above a four-storey underground car park which holds over 1,000 cars, making it one of the most easily accessible town squares in Malta.
The obvious benefits of a car-free zone are many and manifest. It is not only residents who reap these benefits, but also their guests as well as visitors to and patrons of the cafés, restaurants, the retail outlets and future offices.
Perit Buhagiar added: “The main benefits to a car-free neighbourhood are clear: less noise, the possibility of children playing outdoors in a safe area, less stress connected to the dangers of vehicular traffic especially for the elderly and ultimately, of course, the fact that both residents and visitors to the peninsula will appreciate life in a generally pollution-free environment. The vision that characterizes the experience of Tigné Point is to liberate the place in which people live, work and relax from the presence of cars, at the same time allowing cars to be nearby.”
The peninsula at Tigné Point is roughly the size of Mdina, therefore planning an area of this size as a fully car-free zone, yet also ensuring it remains accessible and serviceable, was a major engineering feat. Most of the area was excavated to 0.5 meters above sea level and the four levels gained beneath grade level now comprise underground road networks, service lay-bys, parking areas, distribution centres, generators, huge reservoirs, centralized air handling units and separated refuse collection.
Not only does the public have access to the piazza but it also has full access to the shoreline and to a new walkway that will eventually circumscribe the peninsula.
This new footpath is an extension of the already popular Sliema front as it will link the Qui-Si-Sana promenade with the Ferries, thereby creating an uninterrupted public walkway from St Julian’s to Manoel Island.