Beyond boundaries

In collaboration with japanese tattoo artist emico hatakeyama, monica audrey galea from galea&galea explores the fusion of cultures in a playful yet conceptual reinterpretation of form and pattern...


An eternal fascination with decorative intricacy lies at the core of Japanese contemporary artistic expression. This same attention to detail characterises the Maltese traditional crafts of lace-making, filigree, wrought ironwork, fretwork and patterned concrete tiles.

Emico’s tattoo art is derived from the radial geometric mandala motifs of sacred art and architecture. Her medium is human skin and her basic technique uses hand poking: a method that creates form out of a series of dots.

Using ornament as a portable device for empowerment and transformation, while drawing on a repertoire of traditional Maltese symbols, the design concept sought to merge parallel worlds in a microcosm of detail. The straight line and the circle met new-found contemporary expression in a quest to grasp the essence of a long-standing tradition that transcends time or cultural context.

…”From the minimal handrail that morphs into a coat hanger to the careful juxtaposition of materials that impart character and give identity to the interior spaces, a story unfolds.”…


A series of laser-cut backlit metal screens and laminated fused glass ceiling grilles push material boundaries to the limit, imparting a precious fragility that simultaneously evokes images of delicate lace and elaborate wrought iron. This culminates in the structure of the bar, the focal point of the interior. From the minimal handrail that morphs into coat hanger to the careful juxtaposition of materials that impart character and give identity to the interior spaces, a story unfolds.

Located in the laid-back, rural setting of Mgarr, the newly refurbished Il-Barri Restaurant, with its predominantly white interiors, sets the tone for a serene dining experience, although it is designed as a flexible multi-purpose space that can be transformed for conferences or events as the need arises.

Animated by the playful chiaroscuro effect in the wall niches and the warm lighting that can be toned down to suit a variety of moods, the main spaces are lit by a random arrangement of seamless circular light fittings that echo the radial screen patterns. At the far end, the bar and service area cut through the space, in a rich array of warmer tones. The reddish hues of the copper, the maple accents and the vibrant blue-green glass produce a dramatic backdrop to the structure of the bar, instilling balance and poetic harmony. The use of crisp detailing, seamlessly integrated state-of-the-art sound systems, reflection and lighting are all orchestrated with calculated precision to create sensual delight and a lasting, positive memory. This unique experiment sets the scene for a timeless yet contemporary dining experience, proving that beauty is far more than skin deep.