A new home for literature

Read about a regeneration project that aims to reconnect and recharge through books.

The story is unfolding for a new Museum of Literature, scheduled to open its doors to the public from an old Valletta palazzo in 2025.

Currently in the making, it has found a home in Old Bakery Street, where a historical building that had fallen into disuse is being repurposed and injected with new life through a rigorous restoration process by AP Valletta.

The Museum of Literature, commissioned by the National Book Council, is a regeneration project stemming from the need for “a space to reconnect and recharge through books and literature, delve into Maltese literature’s history and discover an oasis for intellectual stimulus and spiritual well-being even during the most hectic days”.

The vision is to invest in an all-round book centre, which benefits the local book culture and industry, while offering visitors an immersive museum experience within the historic setting of a rehabilitated 16th-century palazzo in the heart of Valletta, said National Book Council executive chairperson Mark Camilleri.

From a design perspective, the multifunctional space aims to give new life to the palazzo’s architecture while creating a new “centre of cultural gravity” in the city, said David Felice, executive director of the award-winning firm entrusted to the project.

Located in an important but often overlooked area, the project is expected to be a significant contribution to the capital city and fits into AP’s vision for Valletta, Felice continued.

“Rethinking its architectural and spatial qualities will enable the insertion of another element of beauty within an already great city and, above all, make it accessible to the public.”

To date, the restoration of the collapsed timber ceilings, stone façades, timber apertures and metal railings has been completed, while the restoration of the internal wall paintings is under way.

Structural works, intended to improve accessibility within the building, are planned to start later on in year, said AP’s structural design director Charles Sciberras.

The installation of building services, finishes and furnishings will follow, with the aim to open the space to the public in 2025.

The building counts four mixed-use storeys, including a basement level and a rooftop area, with the former being conceived as a space dedicated to book launches and events, equipped with a kitchen area.

Hosting a bookshop, a small reception and a dining area, the ground floor has been designed as a “welcoming, calming and informal space in symbiosis with the street and the internal courtyard,” said Rory Apap Brown, AP’s interior design director.

“The design principle behind the bookshop revolves around the will to reconnect people through books,” he explained.

In parallel with the main goal of promoting interaction, the insertion of private pockets for more intimate reading will create the “perfect balance between quiet and comfort”.

The first floor will accommodate both an interactive and movable exhibition space and offices for the museum’s administration.

The need for flexibility has led to the design of modular and movable furniture units, customisable according to the client’s needs, the architectural firm said.

A natural palette of colours, defined by the use of organic materials, will allow for all the design elements to blend naturally with the environment, letting the architecture of the space speak for itself.

“The offices are designed as objects themselves: juxtaposed into the space, functional and easily adaptable to changing conditions,” it continued.

To complement the “extremely decadent and fragile beauty of the original fabric”, a semi-transparent glass structure has been designed to run on the building’s internal façade from ground floor all the way up to roof level, becoming the “heart” of the project, as well as a “landmark”.

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