The Barrakka Lift - Architecture Project
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The Barrakka Lift

Architecture Project

27 October 2015

Lascaris Ditch forms part of Valletta’s landfront fortification network and as such is an integral constituent of the World Heritage Site denomination. This ditch is at the lowest point of the fortification which had required the construction of vertiginous walls partly hewn from the original rock. As such, Lascaris Ditch is a privileged vantage point to witness the exposed stratigraphy of the fortifications, from rock-hewn formation to masonry construction, testimony to the phenomenal efforts and ingenuity that were required for the construction of this fortified city.
Following the end of activity of the 1905 Barrakka Lift, the lower part of Lascaris Ditch had, over the years, been used as one of the numerous open-air car parks around Valletta. Various rooms and accretions which had been used in the past had become mostly dumpster and squats. The ditch was essentially a dead end overcrowded with cars, and partly invaded by overgrown vegetation. The tunnel leading into the ditch was black with traffic exhausts and poorly lit. This made for a poor view from the overlooking Barrakka Gardens.
The zig-zag path that had been constructed at the same time as the original lift and which provided access to the upper part of the ditch and from then to the main gate of Valletta, was rendered inaccessible due to the excess of wild vegetation that had been allowed to grow on site as well as the amount of debris which had collected over the years. The lower areas of the fortification walls were blackened by repeated exposure to car exhausts and were encumbered by metal accretions and signs affixed over time.
The use of Lascaris Ditch as a car park was one de facto with no planned decision or notion of impact on the surroundings. This space was in effect a public and urban squat with little to its original and historical functions. Accessibility to anyone but car park users was restricted due to the squalid environment, and the visual impact of the cars was highly negative both from the lower and upper levels of the fortifications.
A painted sign on a wood panel contemporary with the old lift and which had been removed some time after the dismantlement of the old lift structure was restored as the project progressed and was eventually re-erected on site.

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