The names of the two architects who won the competition for the design of the new Monti stalls were announced last month, during the annual general meeting of the Kamra tal-Periti, but the design is still being kept under wraps pending a decision by the Economy Ministry to unveil it.
This paper has confirmed that the winning architects are Ray Said and Rupert Pace. Architects who were present for the January AGM said they were surprised when chamber President Christopher Mintoff suddenly announced the winners. Mr Said and Mr Pace then presented their design in a short presentation, before being presented with a cheque from the Economy Ministry by Mr Mintoff.
Asked by this newspaper why he had presented the ministry cheque, Mr Mintoff explained that he had asked for a representative from Chris Cardona’s ministry to attend and present the prize but was told that no one would be attending. “I can understand that the ministry cannot spare someone for four hours. They handed me the cheque and asked me to present it to the winners myself. I’d rather they had sent someone but they couldn’t.”
The Economy Ministry had announced back in July that it had chosen the design and that it would be unveiled “soon.” Asked why it had taken the chamber seven months to announce the winners, Mr Mintoff said had not made the announcement earlier because he did not have the ministry’s go-ahead. “I was pressuring them to at least allow us to announce the winners. The go-ahead came close to the AGM so I decided to announce the winners on that occasion.”
Mr Mintoff said the winning design was “good and strong” and hoped that the government would unveil it soon. “We are very pleased with the outcome and that we gave the ministry direction for a better design. It is now up to the ministry to decide when to reveal the design. As president of the KTP I look forward to giving exposure to the good work of our members.”
Location and design to be announced together
The competition was held after the first design – tacky white PVC stalls with red-coloured eight-pointed crosses – was rejected. Sources said the Economy Ministry was waiting until a final decision was taken on the location of the market stalls, so as to be able to announce the location and the design at one go.
Controversy had ensued when the Ministry had announced that the Monti would be moved to Ordnance Street, taking up the space between Renzo Piano’s Parliament and open air theatre. The move was a result of a pre-election promise to the Monti hawkers, who had argued that their business was suffering in Merchants Street. But the planned move was, to say the least, not welcomed, with many complaining that selling G-strings near two of Valletta’s most iconic buildings went contrary to all the government’s talk about ‘culture in the capital.’
The Ministry finally relented and drew up plans to move the market to the south side of Ordnance Street – between the arcades and Palazzo Ferreria. The move, however, would come at a cost since there is no space to fit all 74 hawkers. The Ministry had offered a cash pay-out to hawkers in return for their licence, in a bid to reduce the number of sellers and be able to fit the market in the short stretch of road. It seems, however, that the offer was not taken up and the government was considering doubling the amount to €50,000.
Another option that was being considered is keeping the market in Merchants Street but moving it further up the road. But this has drawn harsh opposition from the Merchants Street business community, which says that moving the market right in front of their shops would affect their business.
The Economy Minister held a meeting with representatives of the business community last week and reportedly informed them about a possible solution “which should go down well with both sides.”
Earlier in the week a scheduled meeting with the Monti hawkers was postponed in the last minute after only four of the 74 licence holders turned up.