Sliema’s Built Heritage

Start Date & Time: 16/11/2017 - 7:00 pm

End Date & Time: 16/11/2017 - 7:00 pm

Price: 7

Inquire At: 20106428

On the evening of Thursday 16th November a large audience of FAA members and Sliema inhabitants (Slimizi) gathered at the Salesian Theatre in Sliema to hear a talk entitled ‘Sliema’s Built Heritage Celebrated with Faces’ by well-known Sliema local architect Edward Said.  Edward specialises in building conservation and is a student of Maltese architectural history.  He is a founding member of the Sliema Heritage Society which in 2010 was set up in a bid to foster an appreciation about the town’s architectural patrimony.  The society works closely with Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar, the Sliema Local Council and other entities in this regard.  Edward’s talk focused on 10 architects responsible for their marvelous iconic architectural designs incorporated into the development of Sliema’s buildings from the mid 19th to mid 20th century.  This lecture celebrates them through their precious work.

In his introduction, Edward said that at the start of the 19th century Sliema was a mere fishing village, which over the years transformed into an idyllic seaside resort and vibrant town of differing architecture, becoming the most desirable place to live.  In fact, Sliema became a victim of its own success as the legacy left by these long-dead architects has suffered tremendously with the loss of many of these old buildings, with a myriad of architectural styles, demolished to make way for apartment blocks.  The 10 architect pioneers, each having his own style, were Emanuele Luigi Galizia (1830-1906); Francesco Zammit (1844-1917); Andrea Vassallo (1856-1928); Joseph Cachia Caruana (1894-1981); Silvio Mercieca (1888-1954); Alberto La Ferla (1898-1942); Francis Griscti Soler (1905-1982); Joseph Psaila (1891-1960); Philip Tortell; and Gustavo Romeo Vincenti (1891-1960), whose architectural achievements were highlighted by Edward.

The well-known Superintendent of Public Works architect Emanuele Luigi Galizia (1830-1906) adopted an exotic and flamboyant arabesque style with horseshoe arches and carvings which he applied to building three large terraced single storey houses (Alcazar, Pax, Alhambra) in Rudolf Street on the main access into the heart of Sliema.  These were the first scheduled houses in Sliema, surrounded by fields, which dominated the rural landscape, and were seen from afar.  He also designed the Police Station at the Ferries landing place and St .Gregory’s church.  The Diana fountain erected in St Anne Square to commemorate the supply of fresh water to Sliema is also by Galizia’s hand.  Today this stands in Balluta square.

Prominent architect Francesco Zammit (1844-1917) constructed large residential premises of quality and quantity in Sliema. In High Street, stand two of Sliema’s most imposing secular buildings: Villa Betharram (today Fatima House) and the adjacent Villino Zammit.  He designed both of these detached villas, complete with their surrounding gardens, which still survive today.  He designed many other fine residential buildings in Victoria Avenue (now Gorg Borg Olivier Street), some double-fronted residences, some with crenellations, and others with simplified balconies.

Andrea Vassallo (1856-1928) was an eclectic Maltese architect who was involved in the design and construction of many buildings and structures, including hospitals, schools, workshops and houses, using various architectural styles throughout his career.  In Sliema he designed the charming Art Nouveau mansion of Casa Said on the Sliema promenade (now demolished); designed the Neoclassical Sliema Government Elementary School, which was built in 1908–1910; all Salesian buildings; and Zammit Clapp Hospital in 1910.  Other notable achievements were designing the basilica of Ta’ Pinu in Gozo, the domes of the Ħamrun and Siġġiewi parish churches, and the Art Nouveau Villa Rosa in St. Julians with its miniature tower -cum-belvedere.

Joseph Cachia Caruana (1894-1982), an architect and engineer, designed houses in Point Street, Dingli circus, Depiro Street and Dingli Street.  He also designed an imposing four storey building in St. Margaret Street, corner with Lower Victoria Terrace, and apartment blocks in Dingli Circus corner with Alexander Street.

Silvio Mercieca (1888-1954) was a talented architect who designed buildings in his own style and also developed the Maltese balcony.  He took inspiration from Gaudi and the Italian Stile Littorio.  Some of his notable designs were Muscat’s car showrooms situated in Rue D’Argens, three historic townhouses with balconies in Hughes Hallet Street in Tigné, and houses in Isouard Street and St. Ignatius Street in Sliema.

Architect Alberto La Ferla (1888-1942) paid special attention to the design of the apertures and wrought iron fittings employing motifs such as the shield-panels on doors and balconies, as well as railings with basic spiralling, which were features of the balcony railings and main door fanlight.  These can be seen on a number of his facades along Amery, Milner, Howard and Dingli Streets.  He cleverly succeeded in striking symmetry to single-fronted houses as can be seen in his Milner Street and Prince of Wales Road (today Manwel Dimech Street) terraced residences.  He also designed the ‘Warrior’ building in Old College Street, built for a Maltese Royal Navy seaman who served on a ship by that name.  He also designed ‘Cactus house’ which is situated near the Old College Street bridge crossing Prince of Wales Road up from Balluta, adopting a rectilinear style façade with pillar and symbolic design of the balcony railing and main door fanlight.

Francis Griscti Soler (1905-1982) designed a Dingli Circus three-storey flats with a columned entrance, all based on the neo-classical style.

Joseph Psaila (1891-1960) designed and built a number of houses in Sliema, such as a single house in Lower Victoria Terrace (now Triq Dun Karm Psaila) with columned entrance and floral motifs above the front door, triangular ventilations and railings on the balcony; a pair of dwellings in St. Margaret Street with metallic plates on the front door, houses in Stella Maris Street with circular window designs, houses in Windsor Terrace with elegant gate styles and houses in Ghar Lembi Street and Tower Road.  Also on Tower Road the president Lombard Bank premises are attributed to Psaila, this building being t o many the culmination of the Art nouveau liberty style in Sliema.  Of course, his most notable design and construction was Balluta Buildings in St. Julians.

Philip Tortell designed buildings on corner of St. Anthony Street and Tigne’ Street without any floral motifs. It has been suggested that he drew inspiration from contemporary American star architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Gustavo Romeo Vincenti (1891-1960) was a great exponent of Art Nouveau and Art Deco architecture in Malta.  In the 1920s and 30s he purchased lands and built houses.  Some of his best creations are on  Dingli Street in an Italian liberty style with floral frieze designs, such as the Art Deco double-fronted two-storey townhouse ‘Assisi’ with columned and fanlight entrance together with wooden balcony flanked by simply designed balcony railings. No 10 nest door, is of particular interst and architectural uniqueness. Acrooss the road stands a row of distinctly Ar t Deco design which is immediately recognizable as being Vincenti, who engaged a geometrically pure and abstract form of ornamentation. service offices. Other designs were houses in Melita Street, Amery Street with art nouveau designs, and Napoleon Flats on Prince of Wales Road.

Derek Moss

FAA Volunteer


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