Key Architectural Features
The Malta at War Museum is situated at the Couvre Porte Gate in Birgu that served as a countergard and fortification system within the Grand Harbour in Malta. In the case of the Couvre Porte countergard, this was built as a defensive feature, added on to protect Vittoriosa’s main gateway, the Porta Superiore which was built during the reign of the Grandmaster Antoine de Paule (1723-1736). The Couvre Porte, was the second gate to be built under the direction of the military engineers C.F. de Mondion and L.F. de Tigne’, between 1716 and 1730.
Primary Aims & Objectives
In order to respond to the brief present by FWA, a museum concept was required, presenting visitors with a continuous walk-through gallery via one space consisting of 9 interconnected rooms. This allowed for the continuity and easily controlled movement of visitors achieved through the excavation of a new tunnel considered to be the major intervention in this restoration project.
The brief also required toilet facilities for visitors which were proposed and incorporated within an existing barrel-vaulted room that separated the main access to the museum from the external open space piazza. Furthermore requirements such as access for all as well as additional network hubs and services needed to be taken into account when re-planning interior spaces.
The Proposed Intervention
- General restoration works took place on the existing structure including: Cleaning and re-pointing of internal walls, exposure of old light fittings, restoration of existing timber apertures and steel beams.
- The original flagstone flooring was preserved and allowed for smooth floor finish for visitor’s circulation, especially for access for all requirements to be enforced. Here the redistribution of mechanical and electrical services was necessary and these were placed beneath a raised flooring system that was to serve as the finished floor level in all the areas of the Museum.
- The new raised flooring was to consist of stainless steel panels, serving as support for calcium sulphate base tiles with a non-slip ceramic tile finish. In addition, the leveling of pedestals was done by mechanical means; by inserting pieces of timber underneath in order to protect the flagstone substrate.
- Stone walls were clad with gypsum boards, detached from the walls, forming a cavity that allowed for ventilation and adequate air flow through the stone’s pores and the simultaneous concealment of mechanical and electrical services. Light fittings were also concealed within this cavity in order to protect the exhibits and museum environment from high UV impact.
Intervention in underground shelters was limited to repair/replacement of surface mounted cables and conduits and introduction of emergency lights, keeping place in original state as much as possible.