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Parliament House (Malta)

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Parliament House
Il-Parlament
Parliament House (Malta).jpeg
View of the Parliament House
Parliament House is located in Malta
Parliament House
Parliament House
Location within Malta
Alternative namesNew Parliament Building Il-Parlament il-Ġdid
General information
StatusComplete
TypeLegislative building
Town or cityValletta
CountryMalta
Coordinates35°53′46.3″N 14°30′35.1″E / 35.896194°N 14.509750°E / 35.896194; 14.509750
Construction started2011
Inaugurated4 May 2015
Cost€90 million
ClientGrand Harbour Regeneration Corporation[1]
OwnerGovernment of Malta
Technical details
MaterialLimestone, concrete and steel
Floor count3
Floor area23,000 m2 (250,000 sq ft)
Design and construction
ArchitectRenzo Piano
Architecture firmRenzo Piano Building Workshop

The Parliament House (Maltese: Il-Parlament il-Ġdid, meaning "The New Parliament") is the meeting place of the Parliament of Malta located in Valletta, Malta. The building was constructed between 2011 and 2015 to designs by Renzo Piano as part of the City Gate Project, which also included building a new City Gate and converting the ruins of the Royal Opera House into an open-air theatre. Construction of the Parliament House generated considerable controversy, mainly due to the modern design of the building and the cost of construction, which amounted to around €90 million.

From 1921 to 1976, the meeting place of the Parliament of Malta had been the Tapestry Chamber of the Grandmaster's Palace, also in Valletta. In 1976, the former armoury of the same palace was converted into a new parliament, and meetings were held there until the opening of the purpose-built Parliament House on 4 May 2015.

Site[edit]

Old Valletta Railway Station (Reception), 1880s
Freedom Square in 2005

The esteemed Parliament House is located in Republic Street near City Gate, the entrance to Valletta. The building is located adjacent to Saint James Cavalier and the ruins of the Royal Opera House, and opposite the City Gate Shopping Arcade and Palazzo Ferreria.

The site presently occupied by the Parliament House was originally built up with houses, and later the Valletta Station of the Malta Railway.[2] The area was bombarded during World War II, and the station and surrounding buildings were demolished in the 1960s as part of a project to redevelop the entrance to Valletta.[3] The area was converted into an open space known as Freedom Square (Maltese: Misraħ il-Ħelsien), which was surrounded by a shopping arcade.[4] The square was originally rather plain, and was commonly used as a car park.[5]

Though most of the square has been built up, part of it is still officially the Freedom Square, and is now in a rectangular form. The square now covers from the corner of Palazzo Ferreria to the first column across of the subjected parliament, and to the Spanish steps next to the City Gate.[6]

Design and construction[edit]

Planning[edit]

The building of the Parliament House was a part of the City Gate Project, which was meant to redevelop the entrance of Valletta. The project consisted of the demolition of the fourth City Gate and the Freedom Square Arcade and the construction of the fifth City Gate and the Parliament House. In addition, the ruins of the Royal Opera House were converted into an open-air theatre known as Pjazza Teatru Rjal. The City Gate project was designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano, and the plans were revealed on 27 June 2009.[7] The Grand Harbour Regeneration Corporation paid Piano €6.6 million for his work on the project.[8]

Construction[edit]

Photo of the Parliament House under construction, with both the steel frame and limestone facade visible
Parliament House under construction, with both the steel frame and limestone facade visible

The demolition of the arcades of Freedom Square began in October 2010.[4] Excavation works for the foundations of the Parliament House began soon after demolition was complete.[9] In early 2011, the original plan was modified with the relocation of a staircase, the extension of one of the blocks, and changes in the design of the louvers on the facade.[10] Construction started later that year,[11] and the steel frame of the structure was complete by early 2012. At this point, it began to be covered in limestone which had been quarried in Gozo, and cut into specific shapes in Italy, before being sent back to Malta.[12] Between 120 and 150 workers were on the construction site every day,[13] and it cost more than €90 million to build.[11]

The completion date of the project was originally given as November 2012[9] or early 2013.[4] The estimated completion date was extended to September 2013,[13] and later to September 2014. Contractors failed to meet deadlines, and the building was still not complete by the end of 2014.[14] It was eventually completed in 2015.[15]

Inauguration[edit]

The Parliament House was officially inaugurated by President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca on 4 May 2015. Members of Parliament and other guests gathered at the old chamber at the Grandmaster's Palace, and walked to the new building accompanied by the police force band. Coleiro Preca called the inauguration of the Parliament House "a milestone in Malta's parliamentary history", since this is the first purpose-built parliament building in Malta. The first sitting was held later the same day.[15]

Most of the building is closed off for security reasons,[16] but a permanent exhibition on the ground floor is open to the public.[17]

On 1 August 2015, Piano visited the Parliament House for the first time since its inauguration.[18]

Critical reception[edit]

The building of the Parliament House, along with the rest of the City Gate project, was controversial.[19][20] Critics considered it an unnecessary project, proposing to restore Fort Saint Elmo or one of the large dilapidated palaces in the city and converting it into a parliament building, for a fraction of the cost of constructing a new building.[21] Some argued that the square should not have been built up as it was one of the few open spaces in Valletta. Others attacked the modern design of the structure itself,[22] including the Labour MP Carmelo Abela, who called the Parliament House "an ugly building built on stilts".[23]

The building's design, particularly the system of cladding,[24] was compared to a dovecote (Maltese: Barumbara tal-ħamiem)[25] or to a cheese grater[26] by the general public.[27] The cladding were intended to actually represent honeycombs as the name of Malta derives from Melite which means honey.[28] The ultramodern design that contrasts much with the rest of Valletta has gone as far as the UNESCO questioning the city's title as a World Heritage Site.[27][29] In 2015, the building was included on The Telegraph's list of "the world's best (and worst) new buildings", although the newspaper did not state in which category the building fell.[30][31]

Structure[edit]

The Parliament House consists of two blocks connected together with bridges, one of which houses the chamber of parliament. The two blocks are separate so as not to obscure views of Saint James Cavalier from Republic Street. Each block has three floors.[13] The structure consists of a steel frame clad in Gozitan limestone.[12][32] The stone slabs are carved in such a way that they seem to have been eroded by nature.[33]

Parliament House is a zero emission building since heat energy is recovered from or given off to the mass of rock below. This is used to heat and cool the building, avoiding any cooling towers or boilers.[34]

Further reading[edit]

  • Thake, Conrad (2016). Contemporary Architecture in Malta: A Curated Collection of Projects. Birkirkara: Kite Group Ltd. ISBN 9789995750244. OCLC 1005711957.
  • Galea Debono, Fiona (18 April 2012). "Parliament in the pink". Times of Malta. Archived from the original on 21 April 2012.
  • https://web.archive.org/web/20170105051830/http://www.newsbook.com.mt/artikli/2016/12/31/tracci-ta%27-legionella-fil-parlament.54979/
  • http://www.maltesewelfare.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Newsletter-No-67-a.pdf

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Valletta City Gate". Renzo Piano Building Workshop. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016.
  2. ^ "Valletta Station". maltarailway.com. Archived from the original on 26 October 2014.
  3. ^ Attard, Chris (24 August 2008). "The gate triumphant". Times of Malta. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016.
  4. ^ a b c "Demolition of Freedom Square arcade starts...and stops". Times of Malta. 4 October 2010. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016.
  5. ^ 2010 Revisions to the Grand Harbour Local Plan of 2002 (Valletta). Marsa: MEPA. March 2010. pp. 5–6. ISBN 9789995726058. Archived from the original on 9 October 2015.
  6. ^ "Kordin Road named after Dom Mintoff; Gaddafi 'loses' gardens in Paola - The Malta Independent". www.independent.com.mt.
  7. ^ "Revealed: the new face of Valletta". Times of Malta. 27 June 2009. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016.
  8. ^ Vella, Matthew (14 November 2010). "Renzo Piano's designs for Valletta cost €6.6 million". Malta Today. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016.
  9. ^ a b Galea Debono, Fiona (6 October 2010). "Freedom Square arcades come crumbling down". Times of Malta. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016.
  10. ^ "Changes to new Parliament House approved". Times of Malta. 14 January 2011. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016.
  11. ^ a b "The road to the new parliament building – in pictures". Times of Malta. 4 May 2015. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016.
  12. ^ a b Galea Debono, Fiona (6 February 2012). "Maltese stone, 'Spanish' steps". Times of Malta. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016.
  13. ^ a b c Dalli, Miriam (10 May 2013). "Sneak preview of new Parliament building". Malta Today. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016.
  14. ^ "Parliament House project delayed, Speaker says MPs have no choice but to continue to meet in old chamber". Times of Malta. 1 October 2014. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016.
  15. ^ a b "Parliament House inaugurated, holds first sitting: 'A milestone in Malta's parliamentary history' – President". Times of Malta. 4 May 2015. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016.
  16. ^ "New Parliament building to be closed off for security reasons, police 'not happy' by proximity of 'monti'". Times of Malta. 27 April 2015. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016.
  17. ^ Micallef, Keith (28 April 2015). "Police may allow limited access to certain parts of new Parliament building". Times of Malta. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016.
  18. ^ "Renzo Piano visits his masterpiece". Times of Malta. 1 August 2015. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016.
  19. ^ Maitland, Robert (2014). Tourism in National Capitals and Global Change. Routledge. pp. 135–142. ISBN 9781317850076.
  20. ^ Galea, Martin (1 August 2009). "Plans for Valletta's City Gate". Din l-Art Ħelwa. Archived from the original on 25 March 2016.
  21. ^ Galea, Vincent (11 April 2013). "Parliament at St Elmo". Times of Malta. Archived from the original on 27 June 2013.
  22. ^ Vassallo, Bernard (11 April 2010). "Renzo Piano's plans are a flop". Times of Malta. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016.
  23. ^ Squires, Nick (8 May 2010). "Maltese anger at plans to rebuild Valletta". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 31 August 2015.
  24. ^ Said, Edward (October 2009). "More Heritage Threatened" (PDF). The Architect. p. 14. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 June 2015.
  25. ^ Vassallo, Raphael (17 February 2015). "The cost of 'culture'". Malta Today. Archived from the original on 24 June 2016.
  26. ^ Zammit Tabona, Kenneth (13 August 2013). "Cheese graters, pharaohs". Times of Malta. Archived from the original on 31 July 2016.
  27. ^ a b Rix, Juliet (2015). Malta and Gozo. Bradt Travel Guides. p. 118. ISBN 9781784770259.
  28. ^ Vella, Godwin (2016). Valletta 1566: Melita Renascens. Heritage Malta. p. 99. ISBN 9789993257387.
  29. ^ Cooke, Patrick (22 July 2013). "Unesco to probe City Gate project". Times of Malta. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016.
  30. ^ "The world's best (and worst) new buildings of 2015". The Telegraph. 22 December 2015. Archived from the original on 31 July 2016.
  31. ^ "New parliament among Telegraph's best and worst buildings of 2015". Times of Malta. 22 December 2015. Archived from the original on 24 December 2015.
  32. ^ "Valletta City Gate – La Valletta (M)" (PDF). Casabella (in Italian). January 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 May 2016.
  33. ^ Calleja, Claudia (15 January 2011). "Louvers for new Parliament building". Times of Malta. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016.
  34. ^ "Parliament, a green Building". City of Valletta. Archived from the original on 25 March 2016.

External links[edit]