Casa Bottega is the story of the redevelopment of a house built in 1650, in one of the historic urban districts of Valletta, the capital of Malta, for both professional and residential purposes.
The building now plays host to the studio CHRIS BRIFFA ARCHITECTS, in its historic part, while a contemporary penthouse, added on top of the structure, is dedicated to the studio owner’s family.
distinguishing itself as a one-of-a-kind architectural realization. The importance of this architectural recovery has been highlighted by various awards and mentions in international architecture competitions, most recently, the BIG SEE INTERIOR DESIGN AWARD 2021, with awards also given to partners involved in the design activity. Among which is FIMA for its bathroom taps and fittings and wellness areas.
AN ARCHITECTURAL HERITAGE TO CONSERVE
Recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 1980, Valletta has experienced a rapid cultural and sociological rebirth in the last 20 years, which also started a movement to value and recover its architectural heritage.
The structural basis of the city, within its fortified walls, has remained constant over hundreds of years. Thus, the structural and functional constraints associated with the recovery of historic buildings have often represented an interesting challenge for architects, called on to find the right balance between innovation and tradition, between conservation of cultural heritage and the new needs of contemporary living.
It is in this context that the Casa Bottega project came to life, when architect Chris Briffa, already a connoisseur of Maltese reality, and the author of several projects there, bought a decidedly dilapidated city centre period residence.
Three years followed, of studies, safety measures, and the recovery of the structures and original layout of the building, redesigned to accommodate the architecture studio with various multifunctional spaces for presentations and meetings.
The first phase of the project included a gallery on the ground floor, a prototyping workshop in the basement, an atelier on the first floor, and a large hall, or piano nobile, on the second floor, serving as a buffer zone between the working spaces and the domestic environment, which was, in turn, the subject of a subsequent expansion.
Original elements, such as floor tiles and window and door openings, have been fully restored and reintegrated. The façade has been preserved in classic Maltese stone, with a skilful recovery of the large external mirador, or enclosed wooden balcony, that graces the piano nobile. However, the most modern services and infrastructures have also been installed in the historic structure, ranging from state of the art ventilation to an elevator enclosed in a steel and glass cage, rising out of the courtyard.
Fima’s choice for taps fits perfectly into this perspective, with its MAXIMA collection reinterpreting the traditional three-hole solution with design flourishes and greater attention to consumption.
The result is a careful restoration of the authenticity of the building, balanced by the needs of modern comfort and sustainability, without distorting the historical context within the city centre.
A CONTEMPORARY LIVING PROJECT, WITH SHARED & PRIVATE SPACES
The second phase of the development of Casa Bottega saw the construction of a contemporary two-bedroom penthouse on the roof of the historic building. This serves as the home for the architect Briffa and his family.
It makes an interesting lifestyle choice, introducing a new dimension of privacy into the project in relation to the public and work spaces. But it is also an architectural grafting of contemporaneity on a period residence, which swaps out design language and materials, while maintaining consistent lines with the urban context.
The new extension rests on two prefabricated reinforced concrete beams, which transfer all the weight of the penthouse to the side-party walls, thus freeing the structure from any additional load. Steel railings follow the orientation of the beams, creating outdoor habitable spaces on large terraces, replete with greenery.
With the careful division of spaces, openings and vertical volumes, the penthouse manages to dialogue both with the external landscape and with the original historic building below. Indeed, as you move downwards, private areas become gradually more traditional, as well as public, with the piano nobile accommodating an architecture library, a music room and a home theatre. Then, on the first floor are semi-public work areas, leaving the ground floor entirely open to the public.
But it is the piano nobile that represents the strongest connection between the public and private spheres. It is not a clear boundary zone, but rather a place of relaxation and conviviality, that leads gently towards the domestic space with its more marked contemporary character.
LIGHT, MATERIALS & FIMA TAPS & FITTINGS FOR CASA BOTTEGA
The interiors of the Casa Bottega project are balanced with a clever play of contrasts of light and dark, coolness and warmth, inside and outside, and closed and open, especially in the penthouse.
Here light becomes a catalyst for the contemporary atmosphere of the project. Through large perimeter openings, skylights and glass walls, light invades Casa Bottega, illuminating its oak floors, and warming the grey concrete structures and elegant stainless steel kitchen, which represents the heart of the home, looking out onto the garden terraces.
The sleeping area is more confidential, with its diffused but more intimate lighting. Two portholes in the ceiling and the grazing light from the floor-level window create a soft, refined atmosphere, which envelops the master bedroom and bathroom.
The shower area directly looks over to the double bedroom, and is an essential, linear volume, served by a wall shower column chosen from FIMA’s wellness solutions. The wall solution has an adjustable shower head, and detachable hand shower in a matt black finish. The controls chosen are those of the MAXIMA collection, a classic series with a cross-shaped profile, revisited in a modern key.
The astute selection of FIMA’s Maxima taps and fittings is also seen in the washbasin area, with a three-hole wall solution and dual sinks, exalted by Venetian terrazzo effect tiles.
Then, a Maxima three-hole surface-mounted tap solution, in a white finish, has been opted for in the bathroom on the first level of the penthouse, inspired by the portico of nearby St John’s Co-Cathedral. Here, once again, the space largely reflects the delicate transition between the historic building and the contemporary penthouse, with clearly salvaged elements, such as the opus incertum, or crazy paving, marble floor.