Lombard Bank’s annexe to Palazzo Spinola in Frederic Street, Valletta won the overall silver medal for all categories in the 2010 Award Scheme for Architectural Heritage.

The award scheme is an initiative by Din l-Art Ħelwa to encourage architectural excellence in a Maltese context, the rehabilitation and reuse of old buildings and the recognition of the dedicated work of those active in restoration.

The bank annexe also won the prix d’honneur in the category for the conservation and reuse of old buildings with the project by Paul Camilleri & Associates.

Joe Said, chief executive officer of Lombard Bank received the awards from the Parliamentary Secretary for Tourism, Culture, and the Environment, Mario de Marco yesterday.

Announcing the winners, Martin Scicluna, DLĦ vice president and chairman of the judging panel, said the judges felt the annexe project had made an outstanding and significant contribution to Maltese cultural heritage and to the achievement of architectural heritage in general.

He described the building as having been in a general state of neglect when it was acquired by Lombard Bank. Its interior had undergone a number of unsightly interventions over the centuries, all of which were now removed. The conservation project brought the baroque architectural gem into the 21st century without losing any of the key features which made one of the oldest structures in Valletta such an impressive building.

The open loggia and portico and the magnificent barrel-vaulted entrance were all restored to their former glory while modern interventions in steel and glass were tastefully and unobtrusively inserted, manifesting a design flair that did not compete or detract from the original, Mr Scicluna said.

Mr Scicluna said the judges were faced with a big number of outstanding entries submitted for the two categories that embraced the rehabilitation and reuse of old buildings and that for restoration and conservation projects.

While there were no entries this year for the third category, for major regeneration projects, it was clear great strides were being made all round in Malta in the field of restoration, he added.

A special diploma was awarded in the same category for the restoration and reuse of old buildings to the 19th century P & O shipping veranda and boathouse converted “through sensitive and imaginative intervention” into a restaurant, La Vecchia Dogana. The conversion, by architect Karl Camilleri Burlò, was found deserving, according to the judging panel, because its modern interpretation was completed without in any way detracting from the architectural or aesthetic integrity of the highly visible landmark in Pietà Creek resulting in the enhancement of the whole area.

The prix d’honneur for restoration and conservation was awarded to the Victoria Gate project and to architect Claude Borg for his work in the preservation of the 19th century gateway designed by Emmanuel Luigi Galizia. The restoration involved not just that of the gate itself but also the re-interpretation of the footbridge and the widening and repaving of the street leading to the gate.

Mr Scicluna said it had been felt this was an excellent example of winning back for the island the beauty of public urban areas with the restoration of what was once the main gateway into Valletta.

Mr Scicluna lauded all participants noting the submissions were all found to be of exceptionally high standard and all contributed greatly to the preservation of Malta’s architectural legacy, namely the conversion of Palazzo de Piro in Mdina, the restoration and conservation of St Anthony’s chapel at Fort Manoel and the façade of the oratory of the Blessed Sacrament in Żejtun.

Dr de Marco spoke of how vital it was for Malta to conserve its unique architectural heritage while at the same time encouraging good modern architecture and design. He appealed for the concept of beauty, while always subjective, to remain foremost as an element that was essential to the quality of life.

“The psychological benefits,” said Dr de Marco, “of being surrounded by beauty assist in the creation of a balanced and well-functioning society and, therefore, efforts must be made to instill concepts of beauty into the projects that make up the occupied environment. The six entrants to this year’s architectural heritage awards are a glowing example of the quality that can be achieved and of which architects in Malta are capable.”

The Din l-Art Ħelwa Architectural Award Scheme is supported by the Chamber of Architects.

The judges were Conrad Thake, representing the Chamber of Architects, art historian Keith Sciberras and DLĦ council member Maria Grazia Cassar.

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