Barrakka Lift

CompanyArchitecture Project
Lead DesignerArchitecture Project
Design Team Konrad Buhagiar, team leader
PrizeArchitectural Design / Transportation

This recently completed twenty storey high panoramic lift is located on the edge of Malta’s historic fortified capital city of Valletta. The sixteenth century fortified walls of the town that once served to keep enemy ships at bay are now subject to a conservation order and provide a stunning new access into the town for the large number of residents and visitors travelling from the water’s edge over the powerful landward enceinte of fortifications and into the heart of the city. The recent restoration of Baroque waterside warehouses into a thriving cruise ship terminal prompted the re-activation of a lift that had been built to connect the harbour with the town in 1905 during Valletta’s heyday as a trading port. This old lift, that contained two lift cabins each with a capacity of 12 passengers, was abandoned and eventually dismantled in the 1980s. Today, the heavy demands of accessibility to the town require a much larger footprint than previously, and therefore the renewed connection has a larger visual impact, whereas, on the engineering level, rigour was needed as attachment to the historic walls was not possible. The geometric qualities of the plan echo the angular forms of the bastion walls and the corrugated edges of the aluminium skin help modulate light as it hits the structure, emphasizing its verticality. The mesh masks the glazed lift carriages, recalling the forms of the original cage lifts, whilst providing shade to passengers as they travel between the city and the Mediterranean Sea.