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June 29, 2023 – Published in Design & Decor Spring-Summer 2023 issue
Valletta town house with a view to the Grand Harbour
Words Michael Trapani Galea Feriol
Photography Andrew Mizzi
It was instantly recognisable that this site in question was no ordinary town house, for besides its overwhelmingly beautiful tall proportions, this corner building addressed the entire grand harbour, creating the most formidable back drop to several internal spaces, whilst climaxing once at roof level.
Sadly, it is all too common today to perceive floor levels as solitary horizontal slices. This gem however, exhibited a rather special vertical stance; one that would be amplified by the removal of the rotten courtyard apertures and embracing further the cross views that this structure offered, piercing through the building. There is no denying that the courtyard along with the original staircase are the heart and soul of the space.
Michael Trapani Galea Feriol and Ireen Barel of MTGF Design Studio embarked on this particular project as a new acquisition of a repeat client. The initial stages were performed in collaboration with architectural practice AP, whilst entrusting the interiors and finishes to MTGF Design Studio.
This abandoned ruin was effectively stripped to shell form, extended by a receded story, and refinished to beyond its former glory.
A careful balance was constantly on the table when sensitively assessing which elements and features were to be retained and restored, whilst addressing other areas which could benefit from a subtle twist. Towards the beginning of the design procedure, it was decided that the building would not only be restored in accordance with its baroque lineage but also to include an art deco accent. The catalyst of this particular slant was the discovery of an exquisite late 1920’s marble dining table which Ireen found whilst treasure hunting with me through Paris, Milan, Porto and Berlin. This pièce de résistance was not only warmly received by the clients but it also suggested a specific angle the home was about to adopt. Following on from this were the multiple sets of reclaimed crystal rod sconces and waterfall chandelier amongst other bespoke furniture commissioned from the further extents of the continent. Other features in the house also testify to the art deco period, such as the brass framed sofa as well as the ‘nero marquina’ end-cappings to define the termination of the main staircase.
The existing three floors were predominantly restoration based, with the exception of the new exposed concrete mezzanine level, housing the study and library and peering down upon the kitchen and sitting room respectively. The all new roof extension, housing the master suite was built from the same limestone but with a more contemporary inclination. The rusticated (imbroll) masonry introduced new lines that vary progressively in course height whilst corresponding in alignment with the timber louvred screens, leading one’s eye further to the breath-taking panoramic views of the three cities across the water.
It must be said that the level of enthusiasm from the clients was instrumental in acquiring the desired result.
The utilisation of an existing well for second class water collection for sustainable irrigation and wc flushing cisterns.
An openable skylight which enables a healthier exchange of air, thus assisting with the building’s dehumidification and cooling.
The installation of an adequately vented (iglu) flooring system at ground floor level, serving to vent water vapour before capillary action draws the humidity up through the base of the walls. Thanks to this system, the lower parts of the walls do not flake and retain their finishes, as well as providing improved thermal insulation.
The outer skin of the roof extension is fully thermally insulated from the internal concrete block-work structure by means of a high-density foam skin. Bespoke aperture detailing was implemented so that the frame work may visually seal the gap between inner and outer skins, without bridging the insulation properties.
Discreet roof mounted PV panels, laid flat, power the electrically operated, water piped heating unit which in turn powers both the underfloor heating, as well as the hot water supply.
Michael Trapani Galea Feriol,
Director & Lead Arch Designer