by Conrad Thake
One of the last surviving townhouses on the Sliema seafront has recently mutated into an undefinable combo – the carcass of the surviving two-storey facade with its once quaint bay-windows forcefully fused to, and in the process very much overpowered, by a modern apartment block of over seven floors with jagged zig-zag open balconies and slender concrete columns. The end product is certainly not an edifying spectacle to behold. All sense of picturesque human scale has been irretrievably lost and one would even question whether it was worthwhile in the first place to make such an effort to preserve the original facade whilst belting out that totally incongruous concrete ‘Hulk’ that arises from within.
I am afraid that many a time compromise in architecture is a dirty word leading to sublimally degenerate solutions. Conserving the facade of the original townhouse is at best an insipid sop to the conservationists whilst still keeping the developer happy with the towering apartment block. To advocate that after the whole Tower Road seafront was raped and pillaged at will, this townhouse should remain untouched and standing as is, may be asking for the impossible and would fly in the face of natural justice. But then I shudder at the idea that our planners are promoting this concept of hollow facadism on the basis of trying to appease both camps. This is neither serious conservation and is certainly not conducive to an architecture of high aesthetic merit.
The building concoction we are presented with is the equivalent to the unrealistic scenario of a cloistered monastic nun befriending a lustful lap dancer, conjoined for eternity as Siamese twins. I am almost tempted to advocate the equivalent of architectural euthanasia and spare the former townhouse its current predicament of perpetual embarrassment.
And then we wonder why architecture in Malta is in the doldrums. Long live the building ‘ghax ir-rota trid idur’.
Nice to read some (amusing) bull’s-eye criticism. How is it that there are so many on this island wearing horse blinkers and roaming suicidal on the main roads? Because that’s what we are doing…. blindly leading our heritage over the cliff & then pointing fingers at Renzo Piano. We need drastic change.
Well said. Couldn’t agree more. When one tries to propose different ways to incorporate a design that not only is of a decent design, if one could even say that, but that at least respects the existing building below or around it, and proposes a design in an attempt not to draw away from the legibility of the proportions of the existing building, then one finds closed doors at the authorities, needless to mention which, at planning stage – until the so called screening process directs towards a pastiche after another.
This horrible construction should be listed in the books of history as the epitome of absurdity!
Petra Caruana Dingli
The carcass of the Naval Clinic next door to the Piazzetta, just down the road from this building, may be heading for a similar architectural mutation –