Mario Cassar is the Shareholder and Director of the multi award-winning MCID (Mario Cassar Interior Design), an interior design and project management consultancy firm, with a long professional track record of over 25 years of experience, and an artistic flair (he is passionate about abstract art).
Cassar has a strong academic and professional background, which is founded on draughtsmanship and architectural assistance and design (master level qualification from the University of Hertfordshire) and project management (master level, in process at Rome Business School respectively), and in health & safety. He also has a personal interest and a passion for property development “with a twist”.
In 2021, Cassar led MCID to receive two prestigious “Honourable Mention Awards” related to the Urban Stitching Real-life Case Study Concept in the architectural design and public infrastructure categories and the Enhancing Accessibility Through Sustainable Design in the architectural design and recreation architecture categories of the BLT Built Design Awards. In Cassar’s opinion, the raison d’etre of these achievements lies in the appropriate critical and analytical approach to the provision of inspirational and relevant design solutions by MCID. Another trait that he believes to be a driving force of locals in the competitive design environment, nationally and internationally, is the awareness of limitations and rendering this a winning factor, striving to transform challenges into opportunities and attaining success.
Cassar’s evolution in interior design and project management over more than twenty-five years is based on the age-old maxim that, “Rome was not built in a day” and one needs to give time to time to gain the required “wind in your professional sails”. Cassar reiterates that project management is an integral interior design element. He emphasises that 25 years ago it was not the norm to engage in the study and practice of interior design and the only option was to take up study abroad. The academic policy then was to read interior design together with project management. Today, he cannot imagine designing a solution without knowing and understanding how to project and manage it from its inception.
As time passed, and while he was putting all his energy into what was passionately doing, the projects entrusted to him started to take on a different dynamic.
As stated above, Cassar has also had a personal interest and a passion for property development “with a twist”. He wanted to think and act out of the box and introduce innovative ideas. This was not easy, but he felt that it was time to challenge the paradigm, that project feasibility and sustainability are not about the pocketed profits. His aspirations for the local development market were to step up in terms of spatial and interior architecture, aesthetics and a concept attachment to any particular development. In this sense, professional diversification with the exploration and setting up of dedicated companies was the natural evolution of the opportunities in front. This saw the establishment of Best Projects Ltd and Right Projects Co Ltd.
Cassar is of the opinion that the challenges presented to interior designers and project management professionals to deliver projects that have features, accessibility, sustainability, and urban stitching in the local architectural and bridges / public infrastructure context can be never-ending, but these can be overcome with the right people in your team, equipped with the right tools, and the right course of action in place. In fact, he did experience issues with the urban stitching and the public infrastructural projects which received the BLT Built Design awards referred to above.
At a certain point, Cassar admits, one feels alone, working against strong currents. What keeps one afloat is a firm determination (not stubbornness or pride) after having carried out a proper research, and evaluated all relevant scenarios, with the right dose of analytical attention.
Cassar points out that design is very subjective, and that it takes the designer’s ability to explain and convince any aims and objectives within any proposed innovative design solution.
The urban stitching concept formed part of Cassar’s intensive investigation and research during his Masters’s degree studies. He appreciates that this solution might, at face value, appear irrational. He based his case scenario on Sliema, Malta, but it can be applied to all localities across the island. Imagine a plot or a neglected historical site in a prime area within the urban core, worth hundreds of thousands of euros. The alternative scenario proposed is that this area is quickly fixed, any danger removed and it is made available for the public, to meet and entertain in some intimate, soft landscaped environment. In this way, we are ‘stitching’ multifaceted urban aspects. This is the future of sustainability; it is what we can do to make up for the lack of available open public space.
The imprint of these scattered green pockets within a locality is designed from the citizens’ perspective and extrapolated through the critical and analytical lens of the designer. It will further instigate the discussion because people will ask “how, why and what?” The replies lie within the design solution because the solution revolves around the citizens’ unparalleled worth.
Cassar has strong opinions on the future of the professions of interior design and project management. He firmly believes that a portion of the future lies in the professionals’ own hands. “We can contribute to leaving this world slightly better than we have found it. This is my philosophy, and I invite whoever is reading this article to embrace this attitude in whatever they do, not merely limited to interior design, be it a carpenter, a chef, a teacher, a lawyer, anyone…”.
On the other hand, and with specific emphasis on the future of interior design and project management, Cassar points out that it takes “two to tango”. He states that it is useless to produce high-end design solutions that never materialise because of certain limitations. Identifying the right people for the right job is crucial. He regrets that one often hears of the “Tom, Dick and Harry” kind of contractor, but it is a rare occurrence to allow the stage for the reputable ones who deliver excellent projects. They are by far fewer, but yes, they exist. In Cassar’s opinion, this is the first and most important decision that a project leader or a developer must take: forming his team. Similar decisions will set the tone and the bearing for the project’s expectations. All who work in this field should demonstrate best practices, be they, professionals, traders or artisanal experts. This attitude will provide the required impetus to raise the bar by way of achieving higher standards which is what Malta deserves.
Cassar’s thoughts on the present state of the built environment in Malta are hopeful. Rather than delving into negativity, he keeps high morale, without “digging my head in the sand”. He believes that interior design and project management professionals must be the catalysts of the desired change and instigate the feasible, sustainable way forward through their design solutions. They have an opportunity to stand at the forefront to affect today’s needed change. It is important to remember that to achieve change, it has to start from within.
“Let’s not forget that we play an important part at the table where decisions are taken from the early days of any project”.