Pushing the boundaries of architecture and fashion

The boundaries of design are meant to be pushed. In recent months, the Planning Authority (PA), embarked upon a creative project that redefined the seamless connection between fashion and architectural. Below, Peter Gingell from the PA and two Periti/designers from Maltese fashion brand Bajja share the process behind this intriguing project.“

The project started off with the question – what if? As organisers of the Malta Architecture and Spatial Planning (MASP) Awards we are constantly exploring and on the look-out for fresh and dynamic ways to showcase Maltese architecture, while supporting the remarkable work of local architects,” explains Gingell.

“Involving fashion provided us with the means to be innovative and creative in raising awareness about some local buildings that have distinct forms, styles and functionality. We sensed that the parallel between the fashion and architecture industries cannot be ignored.”

As architecture evolved towards a more modern aesthetic, the relationship between fashion and architecture became more evident. Both architecture and style express the unique taste of an individual or a society. The design process of both architecture and fashion is similar. From visualisation to conceptisation, construction to handcrafting, there are many similarities. Both share a similar vocabulary, which has also influenced one another. 

With the evolution of new building materials, fashion-related practices normally used in the manufacture of clothing – like wrapping, pleating and folding – are now seen on the façade of new buildings. Coinciding with this we see terminology more commonly used in architecture, such as massing and volumetrics, being used on today’s catwalks.

Peter was delighted to discover local fashion designer Bajja.

“This company ticked all the boxes for us – not only are its designers warranted architects, the two Bezzina siblings are hardworking, passionate, meticulous and energetic.

The team behind the fashion architecture project.The team behind fashion architecture.

“One of the challenges was to decide which buildings to choose for Bajja to draw their inspiration. We had a long list, but we narrowed it down to four buildings after lengthy discussions with Samaria Vincienne. All four buildings were designed and built with expert artistry, attention to detail and using quality materials, helping them stand the test of time and symbolising Maltese heritage for generations,” Gingell pointed out.

The project took inspiration from the features, philosophy and design of four local landmark buildings, each offering good examples of architecture in their respective eras: Balluta Buildings, Dar il-Ħanin Samaritan, Tarxien Temples and the Fgura Parish Church.

“Presenting a bespoke fashion collection at the Awards was extremely special for us, as it married two of our passions, architecture and fashion,” explained fashion designer Samaria Bezzina.

“Both follow a very similar process, from visiting the site and developing the concept, to sketching, creating the plans for the building or the paper patterns for the garment. Both fashion and architecture express ideas of personal, social and cultural identity, reflecting the concerns of users and the ambitions of the age.”

Vincienne Bezzina added: “As designers, we keep quality and craftsmanship as our top priority, working closely with the PA and with an excellent local seamstress, Ina Zammit, we remained true to the buildings’ original spirit and continue the Maltese tradition of quality and excellence.”

For the garment inspired by Balluta Buildings, the designers focused on the structure’s three prominent vertical arches, its distinctive wrought iron gate and its green shutters. They created a silk print design and incorporated a red corset on the dress that mirrors the gate’s design, to fit the building’s Art Nouveau style by architect Giuseppe Psaila.

Fgura ChurchFgura Church

Paying homage to the work of Maltese architect Richard England, the designers focused on the meditation garden at Dar il-Ħanin Samaritan – the muse for yet another garment in the collection. The vibrant-coloured dress incorporates the garden’s journey through life from birth and beyond death, using its play of light and shadow, with fluidity as a nod to the space’s water-related architectural elements.

Then, the garment inspired by Tarxien Temples channels this heritage site’s famously detailed carvings into the design, with a printed silk cotton shirt that features them in a striking red colour reflecting the blood of sacrifice and the use of ochre. A bodice with the oculus motif signifies the sacred areas of the temples, while the choice of fabric gives the impression of animal skin – a key aspect in prehistoric societies.

Finally, the triangular lines and vivid stained-glass windows of Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish church in Fgura inspired the last garment of the project’s collection. This beautiful piece is a replica of the church’s pyramidal roof. Pure white satin fabric forms triangular shapes, revealing a vibrant stained-glass print shirt underneath.

“We hope to exhibit these garments soon – designed and made by Maltese artists, much like the buildings that inspired them and their architects – as well as to create a coffee table publication of the project sharing the process behind it,” concludes Gingell.

“There are so many unique and creative elements of Malta that marry well with the country’s architecture. We are looking forward to exploring more of these at the next MASP Awards!”

Visit www.maspawards.com to learn more about this project.

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