Houses Nos. 24 - 28, Old Bakery Street Valletta

Houses Nos. 24 - 28, Old Bakery Street Valletta

Old Bakery Street - Houses 24 to 28

The block of building at Old Bakery Street corner with St. John Street Valletta comprises of a number of houses ranging from No. 23 to No. 30 with the doors overlooking Old Bakery Street. Originally the block consisted of two adjacent houses only, with entrances which are now No. 24 and 28.
  The other doors are later additions when the two houses were divided into further residences.  The two adjacent houses were built on two floors with underlying basements, and share the same architectural grammar. They seem to have been built at the same time and designed by the same architect. According to V.F. Denaro they were built before 1652. The style is rather Mannerist, however, elements of the Baroque are evident, such as the use of omega hood moulds and a scallop shell motif within two of the window openings (now transformed into open balconies at mezzanine level). One of the windows is reminiscent to those designed by Francesco Borromini for Palazzo Barberini in Rome. The panelled walls of the façade are punctured by doors and windows set within heavy moulded frames. The arrangement of the ground and mezzanine level doors and windows is rather irregular and contrasts with the balanced arrangement of the upper floor apertures and round corner balcony.  This is due to the fact that the mezzanine with all its balconies is a later addition.  In fact when some of the ground floor rooms are viewed from their interior it could be noticed that the upper parts of the arches are partly hidden behind the ceilings where they appear again at mezzanine level.

Over the doorway of house number 28 is an inscription in a cartouche Boni Amici - Amica Domus, perhaps referring to Buonamici the architect to whom the design of the building is attributed or because he resided there while he was in Malta between 1635 and 1659. House no 28 Valletta, had been wonderfully restored to its former glory by the owner Antoine Cachia. A partly visible advert from the British period painted directly on the façade has also been retained. Over the years, there is enough evidence to conclude that various alterations were carried out such as the inclusion of the timber balcony on Old Bakery street and probably quite recently, the opening of two disproportionate windows on Old Bakery street. It is probable that the cementcious render on the pilaster has existed for many years. The main facade is interestingly quite articulate and is similar to the building in number 28, but in actual fact there are a number of difference. The main focus is definitely the corner balcony with its sculptural corbels and the main entrance on Old Bakery street. However, along the passage of time, a number of interventions have taken place, that in some way, compete with the authentic legibility of this work of art. The impressive uppermost cornice is continuous with the abutting building in 28, Old Bakery street, and to date in very barely disturbed by any interventions.

The main changes that took place on Old Bakery street, include a number of openings at the third party ground floor level, the opening of two windows with aluminium apertures to the right of the main entrance and the opening of two smallish windows to the left of the main entrance which are probably providing some kind of extraction also to third parties. The wooden balcony at intermediate level with a cantileavered concrete base, the central arched balcony and balcony above Guze all indicate various interventions of sorts. The interventions on St John's street, include a number of openings at the third party ground floor level, in particular door closest to the corner pilaster, and the window and French window above same. These interventions seem to be more recent than the rest. Mepa scheduled Nos. 24 - 28, Triq l-Ifran as a Grade 1 national monument as per Government Notice No. 276/08 in the Government Gazette dated March 28, 2008.

The deterioration processes experienced on the facades of 24 Old Bakery street corner with St John's street in Valletta, were the result of a number of factors such as, exposure and orientation, salt contamination (sea spray, rising damp, nitrates and incompatible materials), biological attack, material properties of the stone, neglect, lack of maintenance, human intervention, structural defects, installation of superfluous accretions and pollution caused by the burning of fossil fuels. The various causes of deterioration have given rise to loss of pointing, deterioration of mortars and masonry, old repairs, later and contemporary additions, mechanical damage and loss of structural integrity, soiling, and biological infestation.

The facade was crying out for some positive intervention. The disordered wires hanging down from various areas of the facade, seemed to have been literally thrown down, to service the various third party owners. Many different kinds of metal attachments and inserts were visible and had no particular function, some of which are causing mechanical damage to the masonry beneath.  A very visible drain pipe divided the facade in a small section.  Aside from all this, the facade suffered particularly from black crusts, surface erosion, superficial deposits and cement render in the lower parts. The timber joinery of the doors, balcony and window in general appeared to be in sound condition requiring only routine maintenance. Some of the third party doors did not respect the aesthetic and historical value of the building.

The main trust of this option is to include the restoration of third parties within the application. This will obviously be subject to third party agreements. The main issue relate to the haphazard services on the facades, which include: telephone lines, Melita and or GO cables, Enemalta and drainage pipes. The other main issue was the material of some of the apertures, and the possible barring of two derogatory windows which distort this unique work of art.

The ground floor and parts of the intermediate level on Old Bakery Street  were covered with a monochrome paint layer. This monochrome layer was even more  pronounced on St John's street. The paint colours varied slightly from one third party to another. The condition of this paint layer was also not in a very good condition throughout the facades.  It was envisaged to remove this layer to replace it with a lime based coloured wash throughout all the ground floor level, creating a homogenous effect, and reflecting the way it would have been presented to us today. A darker lime wash was applied for the plinth level.

The corner pilaster was partly rendered in a cement coating. The finish will be stone coloured, matching the patina of the contiguous masonry,  with a slightly darker plinth (dado), continuous with the plinth in Old Bakery street.

It was envisaged that after cleaning intervention, the exposed limestone will be well preserved and this will remain as the finish. After suitable cleaning using a wet brushing method, poulticing and micro sandblasting,  the defective joints were opened and re-pointed, any plastic repair carried out (particularily to fill cavities and reconstruct broken architectural lines or elements) and a durable homogenising lime-based wash (velatura) was applied, depending on the exposed appearance of the stonework.