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subway dreams

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Thursday, 14 November 2013

subway dreams

I have a dream.

Not a very complex one, though civil engineers / architects / cultural heritage managers / artists may disagree on the level of complexity I envisage. Let me tell you about it.

Ever since I returned to Malta, it has become a regular habit of mine to change buses to work in Blata l-Bajda.  As the Maltese readers will know, this area known as il-Bombi is notorious for commuters crossing the multiple carriage way haphazardly - commuters who should actually be crossing to the other side of the road from the underpass linking the two sides.

I'm not too keen on risking my life, especially first thing in the morning.  So I take the underpass. Only another handful of commuters does unfortunately, and I don't really blame them. The underpass is, for want of a better way, sordid.  Monday mornings are the worst, with regular remnants of the weekend's less than sociable goings-on.

But it shouldn't be this way.  I dream of this place, and any other of the few underpasses in Malta being different.  I dream of them as being a pleasure to walk through.  I remember a few years ago Kinemastik had held an event at this particular subway - evidence of which is still on its walls in fact, thorn and graffitied over.

I dream of these underpasses being brightly lit, why not, painted over with artists' commissions livening up the place.  Look at the Maalbeek Metro Station in Brussels.  I fell in love with this station eight years ago when I first ventured to the European Capital and haven't fallen out of love since. The Belgian born and bred BenoĆ®t van Innis was commissioned to produce wall paintings on tiles in 2001 when the station was being renovated.  The illustrations are charmingly cryptic, much like many of his The NewYorker covers, but give due celebration to one of the highly accredited artists in Belgium. 


I dream that entering the local subways doesn't make you feel as though you're entering some god forsaken dungeon, but a place where people can quickly socialise, possibly carry out some last minute purchase - a paper, a coffee, maybe some breakfast on the go - as they rush with their fellow commuters to catch the next bus.  Think of the theatrical entrances to the Paris Metros in Guimard's art nouveau style and what a point of historical, architectural and touristic reference they have become nowadays ... a beauty in their own right!

Some dreams remain just that: dreams.  Others can lead to hopes and plans. While it isn't in my power to plan and affect any physical changes, I do have hope.  My hope stems from the University Skate Park subways which I went through recently and saw brightly coloured with young, mostly unknown street artists' works.  I have hopes that with the Bombi and Floriana subways being a stone's throw away from the 2018 Capital of Culture, these spaces will be renovated as links to/from the City, reflecting the artistic and cultural beauty of it, while simultaneously providing a safe option for commuters to actually use. 

I have hope. But in the meantime, I'll keep on dreaming. 

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