Urban Fabric is a large-scale installation informed by contextual research and a deep-rooted appreciation of the need for sustainable design.

Commissioned by Arts Council Malta, Urban Fabric re-contextualizes the traditional Maltese village core and merges two separate elements - traditional city planning and the Phoenician-Maltese tradition of fabric production and dyeing. The installation is in accordance with the artists’ ethos of recyclability and eco-consciousness.

The installation uses as its source material documentation about how the Phoenicians used to dye wool and linen garments using (mainly) two types of sea-snail species which are common along the Mediterranean shores - the Murex trunculus and the Murex brandaris. The installation piece draws on eco-friendly methods as an alternative to ancient practices. This research was carried out at the National Museum of Archaeology in Valletta, where the team retraced the footsteps of the Phoenicians, experiencing the fine fabrics and artefacts of the time and using this experience as foundation. 

The Team

Open Square, the team behind the project, is an art and design collective consisting of four members: Luke Azzopardi, Trevor Borg, Matthew Joseph Casha and Alessia Deguara. These four professional artists are known and respected names on the local and international artistic circuit, having already collaborated on high-profile projects.

Matthew Joseph Casha

Matthew is an Architect and Civil Engineer specialising in architectural and spatial design. Having graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering and Architecture in Malta, Matthew pursued his studies with a Masters Degree in Construction Project Management in Aberdeen, Scotland. Before founding his own studio in 2016, Matthew worked on several major national projects, which involved integration of spatial planning with high end detailed design. Matthew is also experienced in project leadership, as well as in the organisation of local design exhibitions and festivals. Today, through his studio, Matthew has been exploring and undertaking new and innovative design projects using modern technologies, such as 3D scanning, drone and 3D printing technologies.

Trevor Borg

Trevor Borg is a multi-disciplinary artist and Head of Department of Digital Arts at the University of Malta. He holds a PhD in Fine Art practice from the University of Leeds and his work spans across a diverse range of media from drawing and painting to sculpture, film, and installations. His work has been shown in numerous museums and galleries internationally, including the 58th edition of the Venice Biennale, the Beijing International Art Biennale 2022 and in various other countries. He is a member of the creative practice-led research network LAND2, curator of various exhibitions and author of a number of articles and academic papers.

Luke Azzopardi

Luke Azzopardi is a couturier and multidisciplinary artist from Victoria, Gozo. After studying at Central Saint Martins (UAL) and the University of Malta (UM), Azzopardi launched his eponymous brand. The Luke Azzopardi studio focuses on the idea of timeless elegance stemming from Azzopardi’s academic background in costume history. The creative director was awarded the prestigious ‘Premio Cultura e Moda 2016’ by L’Istituto Italiano di Cultura, the ‘Fashion Designer of the Year 2018’ award by LovinMalta, and has most recently been shortlisted for a number of Premju ghall-Arti by Arts Council Malta. The nature of Azzopardi’s work looks to fashion as an art object.

Alessia Deguara

Alessia recently graduated with a Master in Architecture (Architectural Design) from the University of Malta with a focus on anthropology and community driven architecture. As part of her Bachelors Degree in Built Environment, she also attended the University of Politecnico di Milano in 2018. Currently Alessia is a Junior Architect at Createit Studio, where she specializes in local residential spaces and landscaping design projects. Spatial interior architecture is an area which Alessia is particularly interested in, especially when it responds to and reflects the needs of the individuals.


Ramona Depares

Ramona Depares is an award-winning veteran name on the Maltese cultural landscape, active both as an award-winning journalist and artist. For close to a decade she was the editor of the Arts & Culture pullout on the Sunday Times of Malta, responsible for cementing the first fully-fledged cultural section on mainstream media. Ramona has published two books under the Merlin Publishers imprint – Beltin: Stejjer Minn Nies Minsija and The Patient in Hospital Zero. Today, she runs her own digital portal, focused on arts and culture, working with high-profile players on the cultural landscape and PCOs like Teatru Malta, Manoel Theatre, Spazju Kreattiv and others.

Gilbert Micallef

Gilbert Micallef has been working in the field of accounting and auditing for 19 years. He set up his private practice in 2014, advising clients on different aspects of business ranging from compliance, financing, start-ups, restructuring, state aid opportunities, tax obligations and more. He is also a registered and practising auditor. Gilbert services various sectors including tourism, EU funding, arts foundations, artists, media companies, insurance, finance, retailers/wholesalers and medical suppliers. He is a member of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, Malta Institute of Accountants and the Malta Institute of Management.

1st – 25th June 2023

The Fourth London Design Biennale was held between the 1st and 25th of June 2023.The installation enjoyed a prominent showcase during the Biennale at Somerset, in London. Audiences in Malta were also able to engage with the installation via an online portal. This project was commissioned by Arts Council Malta, within the Ministry for National Heritage, the Arts and Local Government. 

More information can be found on www.urbanfabricmalta.com and www.artscouncil.mt.



“To make inside concrete and outside

vast is the first task, the first problem, it

would seem, of an anthropology of the

imagination. But between concrete and

vast, the opposition is not a true one.”

Gaston Bachelard (1994: 215)


Ancient writings tell us that the ancient Phoenicians, especially those living in Tyre and Sidon, were renowned for their textile production. In particular, they were famed for the way that they managed to dye their wool and linen garments using two major types of sea-snail species which are common along the Mediterranean shores: the Murex trunculus and the Murex brandaris; other sea-snails were also used (National Museum of Archaeology, Valletta). ‘The existence of a textile industry in Malta is amply documented by the ancient writers both for the Roman and, by logical extension, to the Punic period’ (Bonanno, 2005: 109).

URBAN FABRIC’ is made from organic and sustainable materials which can be easily recycled and repurposed. Great care will be taken to approach the design from a sustainable viewpoint and to responsibly encourage current and future generations to foreground the earth in their aesthetic considerations. The proposed installation allows for audience engagement as visitors will be encouraged to ‘walk through’ it, to directly experience the space inside, and around it, in an embodied way, to navigate, and to find way ins and outs of it. Like a Maltese village, it will imbricate ancient history with contemporaneity, light and shade, open and enclosed spaces and a strong sense of place and time. The installation considers the work of anthropologist Tim Ingold as its starting point - ‘Knowledge of the world is gained by moving about in it, attending to it, ever alert to the signs by which it is revealed’ (2000: 55).


Victoria Broackes

Director of the London Design Biennale, Somerset House, London

Perit André Pizzuto

Architect and President of the Malta Chamber of Architects and Engineers

Perit Jevon Vella

Conservation Architect and Deputy Director of the Institute for The Creative Arts, MCAST

Caldon Mercieca

Former Manager at the Valletta Design Cluster 

Eric Fenech

Director Corporate Affairs, Arts Council Malta

Chaired by Mary Ann Cauchi, Director Funding and Strategy, Arts Council Malta

"Widely viewed as one of the top three international art events, the London Design Biennale promotes international collaboration and the global role of design with exhibitions and installations that ‘demonstrated the ambition to create universal solutions to problems which concern us all" - The Times of Malta, November 6, 2022


"Malta's exhibit is conceived through a fusion of art, architecture and innovative and sustainable design. The team of artists behind the project are known and respected names on the local and international artistic circuit, having already collaborated on high-profile projects." - Mr. Albert Marshall, Executive Chairperson, Arts Council Malta.


 "Through this participation we have implemented another electoral measure. We are here to be a showcase to our country's artistic and creative sector and to strengthen the international profile of Maltese designers. We will continue working to enhance the international platform for the cultural and creative sector. Through these efforts, the Government is furthering its mission to promote our cultural and creative industries," Minister Dr. Owen Bonnici


"One project that will be difficult to miss is Urban Fabric, a monumental installation by the Malta-based Open Square Collective, which will take over the central courtyard at Somerset House. This is the first presentation by Malta at the biennale and their offering is inspired by their commitment to sustainability within the design sector, as well as a deep-seated respect for their country’s history" - The Glass Magazine, June 8, 2023


"A fusion of art, architecture and design, Urban Fabric is a playful labyrinth of light, colour and texture that aims to re-contextualise the Maltese village core, merging traditional city planning and the ancient Phoenician-Maltese practice of fabric production and dyeing" - ICON Magazine, May 31, 2023


"Malta’s presence at the London Design Biennale builds upon its past success at major international festivals like the Venice Biennale, where exhibits commissioned by Arts Council Malta garnered high praise from the international press" - LovinMalta, June 5, 2023


"Open Square, the team behind the project, is an art and design collective consisting of four members: Luke Azzopardi, Trevor Borg, Matthew Joseph Casha and Alessia Deguara. These four professional artists are known and respected names on the local and international artistic circuit, having already collaborated on high-profile projects". - MaltaToday, November 9, 2022