Mar01

Fortifications Information Centre

Malta's fortifications represent one of the finest collections of military architecture to be found anywhere in the world and constitute, in the words of Professor Quentin Hughes, a monumental heritage ‘for sheer concentration and majesty quite unmatched.’

It is difficult, therefore, to understand why a country which boasts such a rich concentration of works of fortification, has never had a Fortifications Information Centre dedicated to military architecture. Hopefully this shortcoming will soon be redressed by the Ministry for Resources and Rural Affairs which has taken the initiative to set up such a Fortifications Information Centre dedicated specifically to expounding and showcasing

i) Malta’s unique patrimony of fortresses, forts, towers and batteries and

ii) the manner in which they constructed – the building methods and techniques and the role of Maltese masons and craftsmen.

The building chosen to house this Fortifications Information Centre is a large sixteenth century block situated near Biagio Steps at the farther end of St Mark Street, Valletta. It was chosen to house the permanent exhibition largely for it vast interior spaces and its location, which adjoining St Andrew Bastion, is both central and provides direct access to Valletta’s bastions.

The proposed new role will also provide an opportunity to rehabilitate the structure which, unfortunately, has lain derelict for the past number of years. Until recently, part of the building served as an examination hall, while the upper most floor, level with Melita Street, was demolished during the Second World War and never rebuilt.

Little is known about this majestic building itself, with its sombre, if somewhat plain, façade. Escutcheons with the coat of arms of Grand Master de Verdalle suggest that its was constructed, or completed, sometime during his magistracy. Located next to the Marsamxett Gate, on the street leading to and from the gate, it must have been constructed as some form of bombproof magazine for the storage of merchandise offloaded from the ships and other vessels berthed in Marsamxett. It’s location close to the Falconeria (used as an armeria  di rispetto from the mid-1700s onwards) suggests some form of military use. Indeed the upper floor of building was used as an artillery school (scuola per gettare bombe) by the Knights.

The building’s spacious vaulted interiors provide excellent exhibition space. The Restoration Unit’s design proposal seeks to exploit both these spaces and computer technology to create a rich multi-media experience that combines both traditional and modern displays.

The Fortifications Information Centre will be divided into five major areas. • reception hall • permanent displays on the Hospitaller and British fortifications. • audio-visual theatre/ lecture room • resource reference Library • administrative offices and workshops • model-makers’ workshop and The Fortifications Information Centre will display large-scale models of the fortifications of Malta, explanatory and multi-lingual interpretational panels as well as interactive multi-media display points designed to explain the history, typology, and technicalities of military architecture.

The set-up of an Audio-Visual Theatre designed to accommodate 50 to 60 visitors at a time will feature special computer-generated presentations aimed at introducing audiences to a number of historical and technical themes associated with military architecture. The reference library will house specialized books and documents aimed to assist, historians, researchers, restorers, as well as students studying the subject. The Fortifications Information Centre will also serve to showcase the Works Division’s major projects for the restoration of fortifications. Proposed completion date: end of 2011 

 

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Author:
militaryarchitecture.com
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