AP Valletta is thirty years old this year. Can
you give us an overview of the firm’s start in
1991 up to its position today?
We started in 1991
with the name Architecture Project, a manifesto
in the Modernist tradition declaring the urgent
need for a project to give new energy to
Maltese architecture. At that moment in history,
though, Modernism was on its last legs and
the isolation of the island started to become
a thing of the past. So, while Architecture
Project, or AP, began to contribute to the
awareness of Architecture which began to
flourish again on the island, the context of the
original mission was transformed irreversibly.
AP has always been prepared for change, and
has remained, as a result, fresh and catchy,
albeit more ambiguous. ‘The idea of Valletta’
is a central tenet of the story of AP. Valletta as
a Renaissance City is an important example
of the Architect’s role in designing the ‘Ideal
City’ – a city concerned with lasting beauty and
functionality, to be enjoyed by all.
As a practice
we are eager to persevere in this endeavour to
(re)develop the model of a Renaissance City
into a Model City of the Future, with Valletta
as a laboratory for new ideas. With this project in mind, it is fitting that in 2018 we decided to
connect the name ‘Architecture Project’ or ‘AP’
directly with that of the city, officially becoming
Can you mention some past and present
projects related to Hospitality, locally and
Over the past 30 years we had
the privilege to work on some of the most
spectacular hospitality sites on the Island, from
Xara Palace in the late 90s to the iconic Hotel
Phoenicia which is still ongoing. The restoration
of the historic building in Mdina deals primarily
with the refurbishment of the historic building
to create a charming hotel with seventeen
suites overlooking both the Maltese rural and
urban landscape. Similarly, working on the
Phoenicia Hotel was a great challenge for us,
especially due to the importance of the historic
fabric characterising the building.
was approached in a holistic manner: the brief
aimed indeed at the insertion of this 1930s
hotel within the rehabilitation project for the
area spanning between City Gate, the ex-bus
terminus and the Floriana ex-parade ground.
It included the restoration of the facades, the
renewal of the back-of-house, the provision
of new terraces on the roof of a new wing
housing the spa and the requalification of the
surrounding gardens and pool area, creating
a contemporary experience that pays tribute
to both the art déco structure and the 16th
The extension of the stair
towers on the facades and the creation of a
copper cornice to unify the 1990s additions,
whose frontispieces and roof structures were
replaced with sky suites, form part of an overall
masterplan that envisages the requalification of
the hotel’s grounds. This includes a new pool
area that restores the legibility of the hotel’s
original architecture while drawing the curtain
back on the greater city context.
edge blurs the boundary between the pool
and the sea beyond, and shallow steps running
along the whole length of the pool create the
effect of a beach at the foot of the bastions.
AP Valletta’s vision statement is to “create architecture that is a place-maker, a container of meaning, a catalyst for the creation of kinship, a fabricator of myth and a producer of narratives.” Tell us how these aspects are kept in mind when designing a hotel, from the general aesthetics to guests’ experience.
We see our mission as similar to that of the alchemist whose erstwhile research was aimed at converting lead into gold. Like any other human activity, the ingredients of Architecture are often restrictive and mundane, but our goal is to combine them in such a way that the end result is lifted out of the basic sphere, provides continuity with the valuable Architecture of the past and is invested with the quality of timelessness. We apply the same philosophy to all our projects, including hospitality.
Indeed, when we worked on the restoration of the Hotel Phoenicia and its Spa we aimed at creating an architectural language which stems from the re-interpretation of the Art Deco style of the main building, and it results in a clean repetition of patterns and a distinct linearity, gently promoting the contemporary nature of the intervention. Also, structurally, the complex took on some inconceivable challenges as
the presence of large historic ruins was discovered during construction.
We chose a neutral, pastel and natural palette that resonates throughout the materiality and creates a homogenous sculptural effect. In this way its emergence from a fortified pre-existent base is enhanced and projected into a timeless dimension. We also attributed significant importance to sustainability principles.
Figures from the 2017 Hotel Global Decarbonisation Report have indicated that hotels will need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions per room, per year by 66% from 2010 levels by 2030, and 90% by 2050 to align with the Paris Climate Agreement. Reducing the environmental impact and making hotels self-sustainable is nowadays considered to be a key issue, particularly for the growing number of eco-conscious consumers. What
is AP Valletta’ strategy in this regard?
an architecture firm, we have always had
environmental considerations and circularity
at the core of our projects, always opting for
an active approach to the matter. Recently AP
Valletta signed an agreement with the Malta
Chamber of Commerce to cooperate on an
extensive research project, ‘Building Futures’,
which will explore how design, together with
research, educational and economic measures
can shape the future of the built and unbuilt
environment in Malta.
We strongly believe that
circular economy is more about the mindset
and the approach. Everything will change when
we understand that everything is connected,
as a domino effect — design, quality, aesthetic,
education, environment, culture. Nowadays
there is an abuse of the word ‘sustainability’ —
people tend to use it without knowing what
it really means and entails.
In the case of the
Phoenicia Spa, the design considerations were
combined with sustainability principles, of which
the most tangible outcome is the installation
of a green roof on the extension, providing the
structure with an alternative cooling system and
therefore making it very energy efficient. During
the process, we also approached international
experts to achieve the ultimate objectives in the
best possible way.
COVID has brought about the need to create
a ‘smart’ hotel room with several new design
implementation. These include contactless
and touchless room controls, keyless room
entry, pop-up dining areas and robotic servers,
among others. What is the long term validity
of these measures post-pandemic?
nowadays needs to be re-educated in order to
understand the consequences of our pre-covid
behaviour. As a result, measures would have to
be put into place to maintain and improve the
amenities of our hospitality offer order to avoid
the spread of the virus. Little do we know about
the post pandemic future; however, it is highly predictable that technology will play an even
higher role for the future of hospitality too, with
a focus on maintaining environments safe both
for the workers and guests.
Moving forward, what do you consider to be
the main opportunities and challenges facing
the Hospitality Architecture industry?
our parameters of aesthetics and
materiality is one of the greatest challenges
of the construction industry in Malta. We
know that the building industry contributes
heavily to CO2 emissions and we cannot leave
it only in the hands of individuals to make
the necessary choices, but rather to policy
makers who need to re-interpret the abovementioned
parameters and to provide tangible
and adoptable solutions for the long term.
an office, we are currently exploring new and
innovative materials and more eco-friendly
ways to design and construct. In this respect,
we strongly believe hospitality would be one of
the best industries to explore these new trends.
It would be fascinating to see how trends
related to modes and periods of travel have
changed as a result of the pandemic. This will
clearly have an influence on the hospitality of
tomorrow and might generate new typologies
of buildings to accommodate the novel forms of tourism.