Harbour Club 2013

Charlotte Sullivan, a shipping agent running her family’s business in Barriera Wharf since an early age, is the woman behind this ambitious restoration project. In 2009, after years of negotiations with former tenants and long bureaucratic procedures with the Lands Department, Sullivan managed to finally secure three leases a few metres away from her offices. Three small, dilapidated, seafront properties spread over three levels encapsulated by thick layers of limestone, history and four years of tribulation.

Armed with a vision of transforming them into a unique Grand Harbour experience, Sullivan engaged us to study these mostly underground, damp spaces (formerly used for shady business) and to transform them into an elegant restaurant & jazz bar worthy of its enviable location.

When the first permit was out and site works commenced in 2012, underground discoveries were the order of the day. Two fake, flat arches under a concrete slab were removed and a large underground space started to unfold. A large cistern-like cavern was unearthed behind the walls, framed by excavated surfaces; hand-chiseled in some parts, pneumatically drilled in others. Our surveyors rushed to draw the new extents of the cave, and fresh plans were submitted to the MEPA in order to stay in line with the works in progress. But more discoveries were on the way; the revised designs themselves soon became obsolete. A total of five entirely different layouts for the underground spaces were prepared and detailed during the course of the works, together with three separate applications for development submitted.

The new, costly, vaulted opening flooded the previously dark, damp spaces with natural light; and blessed patrons with a view of Fort St. Angelo. The timber flooring, recycled from the decking of a decommissioned ship bought by Sullivan’s company, was lined with glass inserts between each plank, bringing in natural light all the way down to the arched basement below. The supporting beams, themselves crafted out of the same recycled timber, all sit proud of the arched structures below. All the timber used for the tables, doors, bars, handrails and storage cabinets at were manufactured from same recycled decking, which Sullivan claims has been at sea for over 100 years.

HARBOUR CLUB INFO
Images by David Pisani.

 

 

 

HARBOUR CLUB INFO

 

The greater part of the property consisted of rooms entirely walled up with tiles and concrete block-work. There was no way of knowing what was hiding behind the layers of piece-meal additions by former tenants, so we sought MEPA’s permission to clean out the additions before actually designing internal layouts and applying for development permits. Nonsensically, consent was not granted, and Sullivan was forced to lodge a formal planning application based on the existing envelope, fully aware that she would have to re-apply with fresh plans once all heavy accretions were removed.

One of the main challenges in all projects within conservation areas is to locate outdoor space where to house the numerous building services, while hiding them from view in this historic cityscape. A commercial kitchen requires extraction, gas tanks, a water reservoir and space for garbage. Moreover, a huge AC outdoor-unit and a separate forced-ventilation system were paramount to ensure fresh air and circulation to the underground spaces. After copious meetings with the services engineer, we encircled the backstage equipment within the new ‘tip’ of the peninsular terrace. A curved concrete wall, draped with a lace-like pattern inspired by vernacular gates, would be the perfect screen – roofed over by a steel grille and a kiosk-like octagonal structure which in turn hides a dumb-waiter on one side and a restroom on the other.

The garage-like steel doors to the main floor below concealed a disintegrating concrete beam, and, more importantly, were flanked by two walls that did not form part of the original opening. Two weathered jambs discovered on either side during the restoration works, effectively proved that the opening was much larger in the past. This led to the idea of re-opening a large doorway and exposing the internal vault to the outside.

HARBOUR CLUB INFO

Using a limited palette of natural materials – timber, steel, concrete and glass –projects like The Harbour Club aim to celebrate the contemporary while staying aware of all its layers of the past. Arches, vaults and chiseled walls (whether handmade or drilled by twentieth century pneumatic tools); old conduit or concrete chases (ingall); 50 year old bottles and ancient amphorae; are all elements that we sought to preserve during the course of the works, and celebrate under a new light. For we believe that restoration and reuse are not just about bringing architecture to its original state, but effectively recording all its past interventions, whether historic or more recent, and marrying them with contemporary ones: for legibility and posterity.

 

 

 

 

HARBOUR CLUB 2013

Charlotte Sullivan, a shipping agent running her family’s business in Barriera Wharf since an early age, is the woman behind this ambitious restoration project. In 2009, after years of negotiations with former tenants and long bureaucratic procedures with the Lands Department, Sullivan managed to finally secure three leases a few meters away from her offices. Three small, dilapidated, seafront properties spread over three levels encapsulated by thick layers of limestone, history and four years of tribulation.

Armed with a vision of transforming them into a unique Grand Harbour experience, Sullivan engaged us to study these mostly underground, damp spaces (formerly used for shady business) and to transform them into an elegant restaurant & jazz bar worthy of its enviable location.

 

HARBOUR CLUB INFO

The greater part of the property consisted of rooms entirely walled up with tiles and concrete block-work. There was no way of knowing what was hiding behind the layers of piece-meal additions by former tenants, so we sought MEPA’s permission to clean out the additions before actually designing internal layouts and applying for development permits. Nonsensically, consent was not granted, and Sullivan was forced to lodge a formal planning application based on the existing envelope, fully aware that she would have to re-apply with fresh plans once all heavy accretions were removed.

When the first permit was out and site works commenced in 2012, underground discoveries were the order of the day. Two fake, flat arches under a concrete slab were removed and a large underground space started to unfold. A large cistern-like cavern was unearthed behind the walls, framed by excavated surfaces; hand-chiseled in some parts, pneumatically drilled in others. Our surveyors rushed to draw the new extents of the cave, and fresh plans were submitted to the MEPA in order to stay in line with the works in progress. But more discoveries were on the way; the revised designs themselves soon became obsolete. A total of five entirely different layouts for the underground spaces were prepared and detailed during the course of the works, together with three separate applications for development submitted.

One of the main challenges in all projects within conservation areas is to locate outdoor space where to house the numerous building services, while hiding them from view in this historic cityscape. A commercial kitchen requires extraction, gas tanks, a water reservoir and space for garbage. Moreover, a huge AC outdoor-unit and a separate forced-ventilation system were paramount to ensure fresh air and circulation to the underground spaces. After copious meetings with the services engineer, we encircled the backstage equipment within the new ‘tip’ of the peninsular terrace. A curved concrete wall, draped with a lace-like pattern inspired by vernacular gates, would be the perfect screen – roofed over by a steel grille and a kiosk-like octagonal structure which in turn hides a dumb-waiter on one side and a restroom on the other.

The garage-like steel doors to the main floor below concealed a disintegrating concrete beam, and, more importantly, were flanked by two walls that did not form part of the original opening. Two weathered jambs discovered on either side during the restoration works, effectively proved that the opening was much larger in the past. This led to the idea of re-opening a large doorway and exposing the internal vault to the outside.

HARBOUR CLUB INFO

The new, costly, vaulted opening flooded the previously dark, damp spaces with natural light; and blessed patrons with a view of Fort St. Angelo. The timber flooring, recycled from the decking of a decommissioned ship bought by Sullivan’s company, was lined with glass inserts between each plank, bringing in natural light all the way down to the arched basement below. The supporting beams, themselves crafted out of the same recycled timber, all sit proud of the arched structures below. All the timber used for the tables, doors, bars, handrails and storage cabinets at were manufactured from same recycled decking, which Sullivan claims has been at sea for over 100 years.

HARBOUR CLUB INFO

Using a limited palette of natural materials – timber, steel, concrete and glass –projects like The Harbour Club aim to celebrate the contemporary while staying aware of all its layers of the past. Arches, vaults and chiseled walls (whether handmade or drilled by twentieth century pneumatic tools); old conduit or concrete chases (ingall); 50 year old bottles and ancient amphorae; are all elements that we sought to preserve during the course of the works, and celebrate under a new light. For we believe that restoration and reuse are not just about bringing architecture to its original state, but effectively recording all its past interventions, whether historic or more recent, and marrying them with contemporary ones: for legibility and posterity.

PROJECT TEAM: Chris Briffa, Marcia Calleja Haber, Sarah Crockford, Sandro Valentino, Edward Said, Ivan Muscat, Victor Bonello.
Images by David Pisani.