Placemaking and the Urban Garden Explored at MICAS Education Conference

Valletta, 24 June 2023 - The Malta International Contemporary Art Space (MICAS) hosted an engaging Education Conference titled "Connecting with Nature: Placemaking and the Urban Garden." The event brought together local and international speakers from diverse creative disciplines, academia, and other fields to delve into the challenges posed by dense urbanization and the pivotal role of urban gardens in connecting people to natural habitats and biodiversity within cities.

The first keynote was given by Prof CJ Lim, who spoke on the topic of "Romance and Resilience: Landscapes of the Imagination." Drawing inspiration from Romanticism's landscape paintings, Prof Lim highlighted how resilient landscapes evoke a whimsical and critical outlook towards nature. These landscapes capture the symbiotic relationship between humans and the environment, reflecting our organic connection to and estrangement from nature. Prof Lim emphasised the significance of cultivating a resilient imagination within the framework of a Smartcity, one that nourishes not only our physical well-being but also our minds, hearts, and communities. Trees and other natural elements serve as living monuments to our environmental heroism and should be cherished and valued.

In the second keynote session, Dr Mario Balzan addressed the conference on "Planning Effective and Multifunctional Nature-Based Solutions: Insights from the Case-Study of Malta." He shed light on the growing prominence of nature-based solutions in regional and national policies as a means to address societal challenges, promote climate change mitigation and adaptation, and enhance human well-being and biodiversity. Using case studies from Malta, Dr Balzan analyzed the use of urban ecosystem service assessment to prioritize nature-based solutions based on existing distributional patterns. He also highlighted recent implementation cases and identified barriers and enablers to mainstreaming nature-based solutions in decision-making processes. Dr Balzan emphasized the need to bridge knowledge gaps, enhance interdisciplinary collaboration, and engage communities in co-creating and evaluating the impacts of nature-based solutions. 

The conference was addressed by Hon Owen Bonnici, Minister for the National Heritage, the Arts and Local Government, who presented some of the visions of the MICAS initiative, and mentioned current or planned projects aimed at fostering nature connectedness in Valletta and Malta's urban areas. 

The conference concluded with a panel discussion featuring representatives from various sectors, facilitating a fruitful exchange of ideas and perspectives. 

Check out the video below and learn about the fruitful discussions on placemaking and the vital role of urban gardens in fostering a deeper connection with nature.