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A spotlight on Madliena’s Mystique: the unique building that defies all rules of architecture
Did you know this beautiful structure existed?

Jillian Mallia

If you’ve ever wandered around the streets of the quite Madliena village, you would have probably noticed an odd-looking structure that has fallen into quite the dilapidated state. For years, this site has beenknown as ‘Villa Mystique.’ But surprisingly enough, it is actually not a villa - it’s not even a building for that matter, rather it was intended to be a sculpture. Basically, it’s a beautifully disguised piece of art!

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According to local blogger Maltatina.com, there is quite the mystery surrounding the so-called structure and was the subject of one certain 1960’s artist, Joseph John Scicluna, who attempted to express Maltese identity in a time when mass construction began.

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Highly expressive but retaining strong historical ties, the structure was built using salvaged stones, ornaments and arches – all remnants of houses destroyed during the Second World War. And if you think Joseph stood by as he watched its construction, then you’ve got another thing coming! Not only did he direct the process, he got his own hands dirty as well!

If you’ve never had the pleasure to come across it, it is perhaps an indescribable sight to be beheld! Mystique is far from average. Rather, it is surreal, authentic and original. It is ‘a strange, fantastical structure built for the joy of the owner’ and defies the rules of architecture. It was built without a design or even a plan … how crazy is that?!

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“It has been said by the architectural community that; ‘There is no real reason, why this structure is standing because it denies all the rules of architecture. ‘They question how a man with no formal training could design and build such a place,’” Baroness Christiane Ramsay Scicluna tells Maltatina in her interview.

At the time of its construction, Mystique acted for Joe and other artists as ‘a source of inspiration’. In fact, its intention was never to be lived in, but rather ‘as a hub for artists’, a safe space for them to meet, ‘paint, play music, sing etc’. There was even a time when Mystique was famously known as ‘the Mecca of Jazz’, with musical sessions being held every Sunday.

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As for the beautiful decor? An interesting and prominent element is the colourful mosaic-like features.  The interior is actually decorated with thousands upon thousands of rejected glass shards from the popular local artisan store, Mdina Glass. All the unwanted and unfit pieces for their elaborate creations were collected by Joseph himself and used here.

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Unfortunately, Mystique was never actually finished, and various damage has been caused throughout the years. Nevertheless, plans for its restoration remain, as Joseph’s family hope that it could one day be turned into ‘a multi-functioning art hub’, just like he had always wanted.

But whilst you may be tempted to visit the lovely site, maybe even have a little roam around, please refrain from doing so! The structure is said to be unsafe and climbing it is dangerous – not to mention, it’s technically trespassing if you do so.

10th October 2021


Jillian Mallia
Written by
Jillian Mallia
A book lover, writer and globetrotter who loves exploring new places and the local gems that the Maltese Islands have to offer. An avid foodie and arts fanatic, Jillian searches the island and beyond for the perfect settings to write about.

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