Joinwell 2008

The Joinwell Group – one of the oldest furniture makers in Malta – was established in 1947 amidst frantic contracts for the repair of war damaged doors and apertures. Over two generations they grew from a small joinery shop to an industrial set-up manufacturing both contract and licensed furniture, from the likes of G-Plan in the 60s to, more recently, entire fitouts of superyachts.

In 2006, father and son, Vincent and Martin Galea, decided to move their high street showroom orginally designed by Richard England, to their 15,000 sq.m factory site. The front end of the factory was to be demolished to make way for a contemporary shop front, adjoining part of the factory at its rear. A few months before construction began, Chris Briffa Architects were hired to design and project manage the 4,000 sq.m interiors that would house furniture showroom, homeware shop and administrative & design offices. The new shop-in-shop was to sell a great variety of imported brands – including Vitra, Molteni, Dada, PoggenPohl, Rolf Benz and Villeroy & Boch – bringing about the need for a unifying gesture in the very initial think-tanks.

 

The presence of over 10,000sq.m of furniture factory space on site brought about a second, and perhaps more unifying, element to the shop. A 110m timber ‘fence’ consisting of adulating slats with varying thicknesses and lengths, was proposed to frame and visually link the very visible mezzanine floor: the only space which was continuous to both new and old buildings.  Hovering above the entire shop, it starts from a cantilevered ‘tree-house’ meeting platform on top of the reception desk and snakes off in both directions to the far ends of the two buildings.

Images: Chris Briffa.

Consisting of two main environments – one a concrete 1960s factory and the other a new steel/glass structure by Demicoli & Associates  – Briffa’s first concerns centered around the edge between the two. Essentially a no-man’s land and a signifier of two eras, his concept proposed the edge be defined as a green space bathed in natural light. This green division, analogous with the environmental concerns of the company, would greet customers to an unorthodox reception more akin to a conservatory than to a furniture shop.

The impressive tour de force – a complex timber curtain consisting of more than 1,200 different pieces of wood – not only showcases Joinwell’s artisan and logistic capabilities but also rationally alters from staircase to railing to office partitions and back again.

Industrial, yet organic, the new showroom epitomized a stimulating meeting point for old and new. To its visitors, it sets a warm and balmy atmosphere conducive of homeliness and wellbeing – the tree canopy now happily overhanging into the shop. To its proud owners, it re-establishes their highest reputation of quality while symbolically venerates their fundamental raw material. To Briffa – himself the son of a carpenter who was physically involved in carving a tricky part of the handrail –“it was hard to imagine an installation of this manner occurring in any other situation.”

JOINWELL 2008

The Joinwell Group – one of the oldest furniture makers in Malta – was established in 1947 amidst frantic contracts for the repair of war damaged doors and apertures. Over two generations they grew from a small joinery shop to an industrial set-up manufacturing both contract and licensed furniture, from the likes of G-Plan in the 60s to, more recently, entire fit outs of superyachts.

In 2006, father and son, Vincent and Martin Galea, decided to move their high street showroom originally designed by Richard England, to their 15,000 sq.m factory site. The front end of the factory was to be demolished to make way for a contemporary shop front, adjoining part of the factory at its rear. A few months before construction began, Chris Briffa Architects were hired to design and project manage the 4,000 sq.m interiors that would house furniture showroom, homeware shop and administrative & design offices. The new shop-in-shop was to sell a great variety of imported brands – including Vitra, Molteni, Dada, PoggenPohl, Rolf Benz and Villeroy & Boch – bringing about the need for a unifying gesture in the very initial think-tanks.

Consisting of two main environments – one a concrete 1960s factory and the other a new steel/glass structure by Demicoli & Associates  – Briffa’s first concerns centered around the edge between the two. Essentially a no-man’s land and a signifier of two eras, his concept proposed the edge be defined as a green space bathed in natural light. This green division, analogous with the environmental concerns of the company, would greet customers to an unorthodox reception more akin to a conservatory than to a furniture shop.

The presence of over 10,000sq.m of furniture factory space on site brought about a second, and perhaps more unifying, element to the shop. A 110m timber ‘fence’ consisting of adulating slats with varying thicknesses and lengths, was proposed to frame and visually link the very visible mezzanine floor: the only space which was continuous to both new and old buildings.  Hovering above the entire shop, it starts from a cantilevered ‘tree-house’ meeting platform on top of the reception desk and snakes off in both directions to the far ends of the two buildings.

The impressive tour de force – a complex timber curtain consisting of more than 1,200 different pieces of wood – not only showcases Joinwell’s artisan and logistic capabilities but also rationally alters from staircase to railing to office partitions and back again.

Industrial, yet organic, the new showroom epitomized a stimulating meeting point for old and new. To its visitors, it sets a warm and balmy atmosphere conducive of homeliness and wellbeing – the tree canopy now happily overhanging into the shop. To its proud owners, it re-establishes their highest reputation of quality while symbolically venerates their fundamental raw material. To Briffa – himself the son of a carpenter who was physically involved in carving a tricky part of the handrail –“it was hard to imagine an installation of this manner occurring in any other situation.”

PROJECT TEAM: Chris Briffa, Darren Cortis, Violetta Kulewska, Lawrence Briffa, Ray Demicoli, Andrew Vinci, John Muscat, Edward Magro, Fred Wilson.

Images: Chris Briffa.