The Malta Independent 16 May 2022, Monday

Application for restoration works on iconic Balluta Buildings filed

Monday, 9 May 2022, 08:51 Last update: about 5 days ago

A planning application proposing the restoration of parts of the iconic Balluta Buildings has been filed.

The site enjoys Grade 1 protection.

The Restoration Method Statement that was submitted to the Planning Authority as part of the application, states that the building, completed in 1928, is experiencing the effects of weathering and its façades require restoration, conservation, cleaning, maintenance and other works on its stone, wrought iron and timber elements.

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"The majestic and monumental Balluta Buildings in St Julian's represents the epitome of the short-lived Art Nouveau period in Malta. Balluta Buildings are the only noteworthy architectural manifestation of the Stile Liberty on the island. Today, it stands out as a luminous beacon of architectural excellence set within an expanse of nondescript and soulless concrete apartment blocks," it reads.

Balluta Buildings comprises of three inter-connected blocks. Each of the blocks has a high-vertical recess that terminates with decorative arch. The arched openings are each flanked by a row of double windows and pilasters. Each individual block is capped by a parapet wall and a low triangular pediment. The blocks are joined together by open verandahs on the lower floors and a receded plain façade on the upper levels, the restoration statement reads.

"When it was built, the entire apartment complex accommodated twenty apartments with spacious layouts and luxurious finishes, that made them amongst the most prestigious residential units on the island."

The subject of the Restoration Method Statement is the restoration of the north-eastern half of the Balluta Building's in St Julian's, following the restoration of the south-western half. "The areas of the north-eastern half of the building subject to this restoration application start at the first floor level and go up to the roof level, on three façades looking onto Balluta Square, Triq and Triq il-Markiż Scicluna and Triq il-Karmnu."

"As part of the restoration of the building the reconstruction of documented elements which are currently missing is being proposed. Two small bridges, that had been originally present on the second and third floors, below the eastern archway, are being proposed for reconstruction using the same type of materials used originally. Apertures that had been changed with metallic replacements will be changed back to window designs which are compatible in style and appearance with the original apertures. The irredeemably deteriorated characteristic timber roller shutters will be re-instated with new ones sourced from abroad."

Describing the proposed interventions, the statement reads: "The proposal's intention is to conserve to original aesthetic and style, without altering any design elements, except where it is complementary and respectful to the original design of the Balluta Buildings. The restoration shall use documentary evidence to re-construct elements that will re-establish the symmetry and totality of the original design, while conserving the original materials."

Among other things, the interventions aim to: Conserve the stone for material preservation and structural safety by replacing elements which would cause danger if left to deteriorate, with new elements using the original material type and design; Clean the superficial deposits and excessive biological growth; Remove black crust using appropriate chemical solutions in paper pulp applications; Remove unwanted paint and plaster layers; Restoring or Replacement where needed and coating timber in protective paint layers, finished in traditional colours; and more.

It says that "Grade 1 Buildings have been listed or their outstanding heritage and cultural value which attributes a higher importance to their proper conservation and restoration. Works shall be done in accordance with international charters, conservation conventions and best practise. The materials used shall be compatible with or the same type as the original, in this case, local globigerina limestone, timber, and lime-based pointing."

Details of the historical overview and the building description were taken from Conrad Thake's book 'Art Nouveau to Modernism: Architecture in Malta 1910 to 1950' which was publised by Kite Group Ltd last year.

 


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