The Malta Independent 22 February 2020, Saturday

Transforming A chapel into a state-of-the-art office

Malta Independent Thursday, 8 December 2005, 00:00 Last update: about 7 years ago

The private sector has also recognised the importance of Malta’s chapels and the MIDI Group’s restoration of the St Luke’s Garrison Chapel in Tigne is a case in point.

Although it was built by the British for military purposes, the chapel has some charming features. MIDI have turned the chapel into their offices.

St Luke’s Garrison Chapel was built in the beginning of the 20th century. A foundation stone records the date of 16 January 1910. It belonged to the British Army barracks site at Tigne Point and was used by officers and soldiers for 75 years. The chapel was in use when the British Armed Forces left Malta in 1979. In the 1980s and 1990s, St Luke’s Chapel was used as a public space for drama and carnival dances.

Prior to restoring the chapel, MIDI commissioned a historical study to define the main lines of evaluation of the chapel. Although historical documents did not provide much information – probably because St Luke’s Garrison Church belonged to a British military complex and relevant information may have been contained in confidential files – some important historical plans were uncovered at the National Maltese Archives, in Rabat.

“The technical interventions and the approved restoration work recommendations which were carried out in these three months, are all based on scientific studies carried on similar edifices and similar limestone degradation with positive results,” explained Lead Architect at aoM Consultants, Dr Alex Torpiano, who carried out the restoration work.

“Although in general, the chapel was in relatively good condition, there was some limited deterioration in the lowermost courses, in the areas above the cornice, in the window columns, and in sporadic individual stones,” Prof. Torpiano said.

Externally, restoration work included the examination of salt content through depth profiling, cleaning with low pressure salt-free water, careful removal of vegetation and extraneous fixtures such as electricity cables that accumulated over the years, stone replacement and consolidation as well as stone preservation treatment. Wild bushes and trees that took root around the chapel, in some instances even causing damage to the structure, were removed.

Stone replacement was kept to a minimum. An appropriate depth of the damaged stones was cut out and new stones were worked to the same profile and size. This was necessary in some instances below the cornice, within the lowest three courses of the building, and on two window columns, while the missing belfry stone cross was replaced.

The new stones have a different colour, but it is expected that, even without artificial ageing, they will quickly develop a patina that will resemble the adjacent stones. The asbestos cement pipes were replaced by cast-iron originals salvaged from the Tigné Barracks.

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