The battle between modernisation and regional character claimed another victim back in 2011, when Malta’s famous fleet of art deco buses was retired due to their age. Usually operated by owner-drivers, the eccentrically varied Maltese bus fleet was considered a unique characteristic of the Mediterranean island, with many painted in bold colours and bright murals. Now a London- and Malta-based design studio has suggested a contemporary alternative, one that combines zero emissions technology with all the visual charm of the originals.

The island had been doubly cursed by the arrival of emissions legislation – not only did it lose many of its distinctive visual buses, but it ended up as the final destination for London’s cast-off ‘bendy buses’. To add insult to injury, the latter were found to be largely unsuited for its network of winding roads. Mizzi Studio hopes to put all that behind it. The new buses are boldly styled and unapologetically art deco in influence.

Malta Bus Sketch
Malta Bus sketches, by Mizzi Studio, 2015

Jonathan Mizzi and his team have dived into the eclectic history of the island’s bus services and come up with a be-chromed machine that is decorative, playful but completely contemporary, with a zero-emission, all-electric powertrain and sleek, aerodynamic stylings.

Mizzi believes that customisation and individuality were a key part of the original fleet. ‘I fell in love with our colourful Art Deco buses as a child,’ he explains, ‘they were so friendly and to lose them was a devastating blow to Malta’s identity as they truly were one of our country’s greatest icons.’ His team has been working on a replacement since 2012, working in decorative elements that reflect the personalisation of the original fleet. ‘This is a state-of-the-art, eco-friendly bus that pays homage to its heritage and aims to fill the large cultural gap that was left behind,’ he continues.

Mizzi Studio
Visualisation of the new Malta bus design, by Mizzi Studio

There’s abstract imagery in the new buses as well, from the angelic sweep of the ‘wings’ on the front chrome grille to the abstracted Maltese cross formed from the negative space between the curved rear windows. Colours are deliberately bold and the studio has even suggested an LED strip beneath the front screen that allows each driver to name their bus, just as they did in the past.

Aesthetics aside, the new buses would set the island on a path to climate-neutrality, improve the take-up of public transport and help reduce pollution across the island. The designs will go on show at the parliament building in Valleta in July 2019, alongside a model bus and CGI film, where Mizzi hopes to drum up further support for this very personal project with island-wide implications. §