Space, Gender and Urban Architecture


Cyrus Vakili-Zad, Ph.D.
Cities Centre, University of Toronto/University of Malta, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Series: Focus on Civilizations and Cultures
BISAC: SOC028000

This book explores the historical roots of the current status of women in Malta, and through extensive examination of the intricate interconnectedness between history, culture, religion and the use of space in architecture (specifically the Maltese covered balcony), suggests the provenance dates back to era of the Knights of Malta who ruled between 1530 and 1798.

Malta boasts hundreds of open-air stone balconies, a common architectural characteristic of Mediterranean subtropical climates, allowing air to circulate through the home during the hot summers. However, Malta also has many covered or boxed-balconies called ‘Gallarija’, especially in the capital city of Valletta where the Knights lived. They are a costly addition counterproductive to the balconies intended purpose. The first known Gallarija-type balcony sits on the Magistral Palace built by the Knights in 1675.

The Knights of Malta, a group of ultra-religious celibate warriors from Western European aristocracy with a mission to prevent the Muslim expansion into Europe at any cost. With full support from the Pope, the Knights ruled Malta with an iron first for over 250 years and imposed their male dominated social and political ideology, completely devaluing womanly contribution to the social, economic and political development of Malta. The Knights were forbidden from any contact with women, a vow they were not willing to uphold, and thus the author argues that the Knights adopted the ‘Gallarija’ to reinforce the self-imposed isolation and conceal their illicit sexual relations with Maltese women and prostitutes.

The author presents historical evidence and accounts connecting the ‘Maltese Gallarija’ to ‘Moushrabiyya’ and similar covered balconies found throughout Muslim countries of North Africa and the Middle East. The Muslim counterparts were made of carved wood latticework initially designed to keep water cool and later to obscure segregated women within the home. The Knights consciously and intentionally modified the design by adding glass and shutters to completely isolate themselves from citizens, and most importantly to ensure their sins go unnoticed.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents




Chapter 1. Malta and the Mediterranean Sea

Chapter 2. An Architectural Innovation to Segregate and Control the Space

Chapter 3. Covered-balconies ‘Gallarija’ – the Source of the Model

Chapter 4. Maltese Gallarijia – Review of the Literature

Chapter 5. The Development of Islamic Empire & Expansion into the Mediterranean

Chapter 6. Muslim Cities – the Management and Control of the Space

Chapter 7. Islamic Architecture and the Development of Maltese ‘Gallarijia’

Chapter 8. The Control of the Space and Muslim Women

Chapter 9. The Normans in Malta and the End of Muslim Rule

Chapter 10. Valletta, the New City, and the New Capital

Chapter 11. The Valletta, the Nuns & the Prostitutes

Chapter 12. The Status of Women in Europe

Chapter 13. The Status of Women During the Knights & the function of the Gallarija

Chapter 14. The Cultural Legacy of the Knights and Domestic Violence

Chapter 15. The Knights in Malta – Magistral Palace and the first Gallariji

Chapter 16. The Successful Adaptations of Boxed-balconies in Malta

Chapter 17. Building Gallarija – Diffusion of Knowledge & Transfer of Ideas

Chapter 18. The End of Hostility, Concluding Remarks & Recommendations




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