Il-Villa ta’ Birkirkara – Is this just fantasy?
By Mark Strijbosch

If there was ever a huge welcomed distraction while driving it is when you approach this anomaly, which catches your eye as you slow down for a roundabout. You’re just driving along minding your own business as she grows on you, stealing all your attention as your mind grapples and takes in such a masterpiece of architectural design.Whichever viewpoint you manage to get on this building, consider yourself blessed as from every angle she is breathtaking. She will lure you in, make you curious and make you gasp in awe, whether it is by night or by day.

Automatically you will picture her in her finished glory, either in her heyday or after you managed to somehow get your hands on the beautiful structure. Your mind will race and in seconds you will have a plan, and have an excellent idea of how you would use the building’s shape to your pleasure. Yes, you’ll plan the kitchen, the bathroom, and have one of those insanely huge rain showers just for fun. Your garden is teeming with life, your bedroom is fit for a Queen… oh and don’t even start on the library. Wall to wall shelving for all your books, and enough artwork to make it feel like the Louvre. The potential is huge and as you’ve circled the roundabout twice with your mouth open, you realize you have a place to be and you are almost late.

Reality hits, so you drive off… but a seed is planted, and one day all seeds must grow!

Now, we’re going to let you in on a secret, and you’ll love this. We’ve gotten our hands on some rare photographs from inside the villa… and if you thought your driveby was amazing, the inside is an Imaginarium.​​A harmonious design of proper use of natural light, sexy lines, wonderful windows and that wrap around balcony. Typing this description is almost impossible as my fingers are ringing with excitement. THAT wrap around balcony…mama oohhh.

Of course, it is not just about the very visible balcony. Steve Jobs would feel right at home in this building. Jobs attributes his love for design to his father’s focused detail. “For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through”. He adds that his father “loved doing things right. He even cared about the look of the parts you couldn’t see.”

Sadly, most of us will never see the inside of Villa Carmel, but these photos reveal all, including a banister that pays tribute to the Maltese rubble wall.

The interior is a collection of artifacts that make the Villa a time warp. You can never collect more timely pieces and group them in such a perfectly fitting space. Frankly, they just don’t make them like this anymore… and this place is like a frozen museum, untouched and abandoned.

These photos send shivers down my spine, but I will carry on, all the way to the balcony, which allows light to spill through. A dropped ceiling appears which is partitioned by wooden slats, and the inside of the curve emphasizes that ship, or space-ship, feel. It gets better when inside…

The master bedroom is what dreams are made of, but don’t stare for too long, as a man’s mind is too weak to view such beauty and strange things will appear in your dreams. You’ll dream of that fantastic doorway into the master bedroom or you’ll clutch that whiskey bottle and pour yourself a drink in the open plan living room and kitchen area – again separated with a brilliant bit of skilled carpentry and design.

The rubble wall staircase carries you as if hovering, to the huge sun-drenched roof. In your dreams, you are entertaining finely dressed guests, where Gatsby himself would be humbled by your wonderfully calligraphed invite. It’s champagne all round, and cocktail dresses to match the men’s skinny ties. Your imaginary guest list must include Don Draper, who charms your crowd and vows to sign you on as his next designer or partner.

Is this just fantasy? Well, with such vivid lucid dreams you’ll never quite know… because after all, isn’t life one long dream?

This dream, however tangible, will inspire you, and the generation of artists that dreamt up this villa is worth studying closely… for they hit the jackpot, and they represented an era as perfectly as a movie can. Movies and photographs allow us to travel back, or forward in time, and our collection of photos will stop the world around you as you are inside Villa Carmel… the Imaginarium, the dream, the vision… the reality. We must remember all ideas are real, everything around us stems from a thought, someone’s mind… so while buildings like this are rare today, the thought process is still valid, possible and in this case, thankfully preserved.

​Story written by Mark Strijbosch
Photos by Samuel Ciantar – follow on Instagram @samuelciantar

A Photographic documentation of the modernist villa in Birkirkara. The series is both an attempt at capturing what once was the intimate space of a family, through what remains, as much as an appreciation of its architecture.

Know Your Value
By Andrew Farrugia