Wooden balconies in Malta certainly go a long way, and considered as an important architectural feature in traditional Maltese façades. With the use of different materials and textures, together with outstanding colours and decorative features, one can’t not appreciate the impeccable unique style it gives to our urban landscapes.
Balconies used to play an important role in different periods, often defining different roles in social classes. During the Baroque period, mostly in the last quarter of the 17th century, the balcony became an important feature in Europe and considered as an architectural trend.
The most popular balcony style on the island is by any doubt the wooden balcony, which brought a unique richness and character to our beautiful townhouses and palazzos all over Malta and Gozo, dominating the cities.
There is little evidence on the exact period regarding the first closed wooden balcony, though most probably this type of balcony is said to be originated from North African and Moroccan prototypes, the so called ‘Muxrabija’ (a peeping hole / spy hole). In the mid-18th century during the British era, wooden balconies started gaining popularity on the islands. This happened mostly due to the availability and reduction in price of timber. There is also documented evidence that the two large balconies within the Grand Master’s Palace in Valletta were the first closed timber balconies in Malta. A lot of closed wooden balconies were also added to the facades of already existing buildings especially during the 19th century.
Wooden balconies are mostly made from red deal (tal-ahmar), which very often matches the main door. Traditionally they also vary in colours like bright red, deep blue, exotic purple, and green. The latter is considered the official colour in wooden balconies on the islands.
Putting aside the aesthetics of a wooden balcony, which by itself dominated our urban heritage, this architectural gem offers quite several advantages which one may not have been aware of. This closed structure offers a semi private space for the house residents. This is derived from the previously mentioned ‘Muxrabija’, though the Maltese ‘Gallarija’ stands miles away from that purpose. The wooden balcony offers literally a personal opera box on the street’s theatre. It also helps a lot with the climate control of our buildings. While still allowing natural sunlight in the house, it traps excessive heat and cold outside.
Together with other local heritage, balconies suffered from an urban disaster during our modernisation period, mostly 1960 -1990’s. Other so called ‘practical’ materials were being favoured, leading to an eyesore to our environment. Luckily, lately new regulations are being placed to avoid our villages’ characteristics being degenerated. Grants are being offered to help the proprietors with the expense of repairing, restoring and maintaining these irreplaceable gems. For more information have a look at: https://www.mepa.org.mt/wooden-balconies
That’s where you come in. Us at oldHousesMalta.com definitely agree that this feature should be treasured for future generations and we will do our part to keep it that way. But we can only do so much, the rest is up to you. 🙂
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