The structure known as Macina forms part of St. Michael’s bastion, a critical part of the city of Senglea’s landward defense. The shear bastion derives its name from its use, a mechanism for ship mast fitting, known as a ‘macchina’, which was active from the 17th century. The machine was originally made of strong hardwood, but in 1864 the British changed it to modernized steel. In 1927 the machine was dismantled by the Admiralty in favor of a floating lift crane, and the Macina has subsequently been used for a variety of purposes including the Admiralty’s Head Office, a Trade School, a Political Party headquarters and as an exhibition space, though it was later abondoned. The structure was unfortunately severely damaged during the Second World War.
Through the creation of the guesthouse and ancillary facilities, life was breathed back to the beautiful but at the time derelict building. The concept behind all design decision was to focus on the culture and character of the Cottonera area, so as to satisfy the increasing demand in cultural tourism.
The main intervention within the structure was to join the existing two parts of the building (that is the Macina and the Annex), through the creation of a panoramic lift and a lightweight bridge. The new layout now accommodates a guesthouse at ground, first and second floor, accommodating a total of 21 guestrooms. A restaurant, cafeteria and spa are located at ground floor and a restaurant and bar area are located on public area at level 3. The design of the new building’s layout and circulation was largely based on respecting the existing historic fabric of the structure whilst best showcasing the beauty of the existing vault spaces. All new additions were planned so as to fit in seamlessly within the existing historic stone. The pool was placed especially to be hidden within the existing balustrade, ensuring that the pool structure is largely hidden from view but allows swimmers to enjoy the picturesque marina views.
The building's facade was expertly restored with most stone being retained, using careful chiseling techniques and utilization of appropriate fair-faced finish masonry elements. The existing façade has been enhanced with the introduction of black apertures adding an additional dimension of interest through contrast and shadow effect with the existing stone façade. All rooms are luxuriously planned and all enjoy sea views. The vast majority of the existing stone structure was left on site, and in particular all the metal fixtures belonging to the historic crane mechanism were preserved and left visible, along with part of the existing flagstone.
The roof, or gun platform level, is now utilized as a restaurant which is open to the public. Skylights which had been previously closed up have now been re-opened to allow natural light to enter the structure. The façade has been enhanced with the introduction of black apertures adding an additional dimension of interest through the contrast and shadow effect with the stone façade. All rooms are luxuriously planned and all enjoy sea views. The design development, and the subsequent restoration and construction process was a long and laborious process where many challenges were faced. As construction began, certain areas were found to be more structurally instable than previously envisaged had to be completed replaced following careful considerations.
The structure’s original layout consisted of numerous large vaults of massive construction constructed within the bastion over three floors. The large office block of the left hand side of the main building originally had four large rooms over each floor with a rear backyard. The original gun platform of the bastion covered the entire area of the roof building.
The vault which was severely damaged in the Second World War was reconstructed using concrete, so that this intervention would be visually distinguishable from the remaining original masonry, which was cleaned and repaired. The roof slabs which were in a state of considerable disrepair were replaced by new slabs which also served to tie the building frame together. In particular, the slab underneath the new pool structure was designed as a rigid structural member to further stabilise the building frame. Due to the large spans over the existing vaults, precast t-beams were utilised so as to provide a substructure for the wooden decking at roof level. Even the lift steel structure, which is connected to the existing masonry structure at each level, further stabilises the overall structure in its entirety by acting as a core.
The roof slabs which were in a state of considerable disrepair were replaced by new slabs which also served to tie the building frame together. In particular, the slab underneath the new pool structure was designed as a rigid structural member to further stabilize the building frame. Due to the large spans over the existing vaults, precast t-beams were utilized so as to provide this rigid substructure for the wooden decking at roof level. Even the lift steel structure, which is connected to the existing masonry structure, further stabilizes the overall structure by acting as a core. The vast majority of the existing stone structure was left on site along with part of the existing flagstone. Following extensive research and investigation, the angular section of the second floor facing St. Michael Bastion of the annex building was found to be constructed in hollow concrete block masonry and therefore of recent and non-historic importance. Roofs which had to be replaced as they were severely structurally unstable were replaced with reinforced concrete systems so as to ensure it is visually clear that these are in fact new additions. This project was awarded the Prix Versailles Award, the Din l-Art Helwa prize for The Rehabilitation and Re-Use of Buildings and the Malta Architect Award in Hospitality, Tourism Accommodation and Leisure.
Dr. Edwin Mintoff Architects was founded over thirty years ago by Dr. Edwin Mintoff, an architect and civil engineer who became one of the first Maltese architects to obtain a doctorate Ph.D. in the field of architecture and urban design. The firm now offers a wide range of services including land and environmental planning, urban design, architectural and interior design, civil, road and structural engineering, land/quantity surveying as well as cost consultancy, both in Malta and well as overseas. The firm's design philosophy is heavily based on producing a seamless design which incorporates the principles of urban architecture.. We look to design not just the building themselves but to consider the new spaces that are created between buildings. The firm has been responsible for the development of a vast number of projects both locally as well as overseas, and has been awarded a number of local and international awards, including the ‘Prix Versaille’ and the ‘A Design’ Awards.
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