The Planning Authority has issued an Emergency Conservation Order (ECO) for Palazzina Vincenti in St Julian’s, describing the property as "heritage at risk".
In a statement on Friday, the PA issued the one-year order and described the building as one of the "best modernist examples on the island".
The property is now being regarded as a Grade 1 scheduled property – the PA’s highest level of protection – until a full assessment is made to determine what level of long-term protection it merits.
It follows calls for protection of the iconic villa on St Julian's seafront, which faces being bulldozed to make way for a 14-storey hotel, theatre, and restaurant complex.
Developer Carlo Stivala and architect Robert Musumeci are behind those plans ( (PA 7761/21).
The St Julian’s local council, heritage NGOs and architects and the ADPD all lodged objections to the plans, citing the 1948 villa’s architectural heritage.
Architect Edward Said had filed requests with the PA and Superintendence of Cultural Heritage to protect the building back in February 2019. But those requests went nowhere, prompting fears that the application to drop the villa would sail through the PA.
But on Friday, the PA announced its decision to protect the villa, describing it as a “pioneering example of modernist architecture” and noting that it was designed by prominent architect Gustavo Romeo Vincenti, who lived in it until his death.
“The ECO is being issued in the light that a development application has been submitted to the Planning Authority with the intention of demolishing the property," it said.
"This application has rendered the property at risk with the irreversible loss of Malta’s cultural heritage.
“For this purpose, the property is being regarded as Grade 1 scheduled property by virtue of its historical, architectural and contextual values.”
The ECO has a one year validity period that will enable the PA to carry out a full and thorough assessment of the building, so as to determine what long-term level of protection it merits.
"The ECO obligies the owner of the property to ensure that the building does not incur any further damage and that its upkeep and maintenance shall be exclusively their responsibility by means of a continous maintenance programme."