Richard England is certainly one of the best talents Malta has ever produced. A master whose work has earned him numerous awards, including eleven International Academy of Architecture Awards and two Commonwealth Association of Architects Regional awards. Others include the Gold Medal of the City of Toulouse in 1985, the International Committee of Architectural Critics Silver Medal in 1987, the 1988 Georgia, U.S.S.R. Biennale Laureate Prize and an IFRAA – AIA Award for Religious Architecture in 1991. In 1996 he was the winner of the International Prize at the III Architectural Biennale of Costa Rica and in 2000 he was the recipient of the Gold Medal of the Belgrade Architectural Triennale. In 2002 he was invited by the National Council of Culture and Art in Mexico to deliver the key address at the Luis Barragan Memorial Symposium. He was also awarded the Grand Prix of the International Academy of Architecture in 2006 and 2015 and the 2012 International Academy of Architecture Annual Award. In 2016 he was one of the winners of the European Architectural Awards.
Prof. England’s interests go well beyond the realm of architecture. He is an accomplished
artist, poet, sculptor, photographer and writer. His erudite knowledge of various literary texts is complemented with his life-long passion for the opera, in particular Italian tenors. Prof. England is what Conrad Thake defined “quintessentially a humanist, a modern day
uomo universale in the Renaissance tradition, embracing a wide spectrum of interests and artistic pursuits.”
Prof. England shared with VIDA his definition of architecture, his philosophy, his works and the recent developments in local and international architecture.
What does architecture mean to you?
My belief and quest is for an architecture which arises not only from utility, function and practicality, but more so from the desire to sensualize and poeticise the human condition. My creed is for an architecture which provides a sensorial and magical experience, for as architects we are the makers of the environmental and ambient stage on which the drama of human life is enacted.”
A good building can change your life and a bad one, ruin it. The appearance of architecture is important, yet more important is how its spaces and ambiances affect us as users. Architecture is not only experienced visually, but more so holistically through all of our five
senses in a haptic manner that extends our sensations well beyond our retinal imagery. Spaces that we create that makes us better human beings or make us very sad or very dull.
How would you describe your architectural philosophy?
I learnt from what I saw. I absorbed the architecture of the knights, the British overlay and also the temples. I also required the intellectual overlay which I learnt whilst working with Joe Ponti. My architectural journey was supported by mentors, by regular visits to key
buildings and by deep study on how such structures were built and designed.
Which is your favourite project?
The next one.
What makes a life worth living?
It is a life spent doing what one loves.
What is so special about the 1960s era?
It was an amazing period that has never come back. It was a decade where the future looked so good, so hopeful. It even impacted on Malta a little later – with the emergence of people such as Emvin Cremona, Charles Camilleri, Fr Peter Serracino Inglott, Francis Ebejer and Antoine Camilleri and the influx of people such as Pasmore and Desmond Morris. That was the most amazing period. Then it died and it never came again. Now, unfortunately, the future looks bleak. Something has fizzled away. We live in an age when we know the price of everything and the value of nothing. Everything is measured in money.
You recently pointed out; “I remember Malta as a virgin… which implies it is now a whore”. Can you elaborate?
People of my generation, feel very sad. We have lost the plot. We are on a pathway to a black hole and it’s not going to change, because construction is a money making machine unless the bubble bursts, which I think it will. Meanwhile, people have money in their
pockets and are not interested in what is happening at the top.
We are not going to leave any heritage and legacy that is in any way equivalent to that left by our forefathers. There are places where you need to be humble and be a defender of the past. Architect has the responsibility to take care of the spirit of the place. We killed the spirit of the place. The more Malta seeks to follow the global village concept, in future we risk losing the spirit found in every town and village across Malta. Let us keep in mind places like Dubai have no memory, we have memory so our context is different.
What makes Maltese architecture stand out of the crowd?
If you look at the Maltese village, you can see the extraordinary character of island. The island offers a typical Mediterranean setting with its cube houses and its language. It is a crossbreed which reflects the islands position as a bridge between the north and south divide. Moreover, the island’s earth is stone, its foundations are stone and its walls of stone. Nevertheless, such character needs to be preserved otherwise the island risks turning soulless. Once u destroy the spirit and quality of place you have nothing.
What legacy do you want to leave?
What I’ve done I’ve done with honesty and passion but it is up to future generations to decide whether it is good or not.
What do you have in store for the future?
There are quite a few things going on. Projects keep you living and create a sense of eagerness to look forward for the next one. If you rest, you rust.
© 2019 – VIDA Magazine