Restoring an Icon
Coronation Bar is a pre-war building, located in the centre of the Urban Conservation Area of Żebbug, close to Misrah San Filippu and the Parish Church of Saint Philip. The property consists of a two-storey building, with a terrace at the first floor level and a roof terrace. With its rich history and location, the restoration works that have been undertaken have injected new life into an old building, and offer a delicate balance in protecting the past and extending an old building’s lifespan into the future. The context is, as always, the guiding principle, as this building serves as a visual landmark and a point of local reference.
The interventions are simple, sensitive and truthful to the original creation. The existing building offered a sound construction, so the restoration treatment mainly involved routine interventions, including a mix of open joint work and a lime-based plastered/painted finish that gave more value to the stone. The cement rendering on the main facade was removed to expose the stone work, while damaged stone work was treated and cleaned. Prevention of over treatment was necessary to avoid a brand-new facade untruthful to the building’s age and history. Sections of the existing pointing were lime-based and in sound condition and were, therefore, preserved while missing cementitious pointing was treated using a hydraulic lime-based mortar.
The apertures were restored and repainted, offering a more visually appropriate facade. The works aimed for a warm Mediterranean aesthetic through the chosen colour palette, that complements the limestone instead of competing with it. Windows and doors were repainted in a rich blue that goes well with the yellow tones.
Exterior lighting is kept simple with three wall-mounted lantern lights, repurposed and upgraded to serve their original purpose so as not to ruin the facade with new insertions. The bar’s existing, worn-out, signage was replaced with a new sign that reflected the new branding of the bar. Redundant cables, wires, bolts and pipes were removed from the facades of the building, further contributing to its timeless simplicity.
The project is divided into two phases: the restoration and rehabilitation which has been executed, and the future construction of a small extension (set back significantly from the facade) at roof level to able to create kitchen/service areas and a dining area for a small restaurant. It has been possible to adapt the building to a use it was not originally intended for, without killing the spirit of the original fabric. It was logical for us to start from the facade, although this might not be the approach that one might normally take as this is not the money-making part of the project; on the contrary, it involves forking out money beforehand. Bringing back to life a building which was disused and had become somewhat derelict over the recent years, through a restored and interesting facade, has however constituted an important starting point to reinstate a sense of pride in the building and provide an uplifting environment, further reinforced through an active and animating ground floor edge.
Photos by Ramon Portelli