A post-war apartment in the Biccerija area of Valletta – a region eponymous with its former abattoir –revealed the inherited debris of its past life. Its interiors were compartmentalised into six rooms, each bearing living palimpsests of a previous tenant's occupancy and activities. Gutted and stripped away, the apartment became a new canvas for new living.

With its transient innards excavated, a skeleton of timber beams and stone slabs was left and retained. Natural light was released through the elimination of internal walls, filling what would become a large, central living space. Steel beams replaced these internal walls, co-existing with the existing timber beams to form a waffle-iron ceiling. As foil to its former density, this room was designed to offer minimalist space, with bright, white walls creating bare wall surface for film projection and general visual levity.

The entire flat, discarded of earlier divisions, now worked to an L-shaped layout. Its kitchen design is deliberately spare, being made up of one long file of mirrored cupboards, bouncing partial scenes of domesticity off their surface throughout the day. Dividing the living and sleeping spaces is a full-height sliding partition clad in mirror. A pull out library exists behind the work space that slots into a custom-made wardrobe, designed as a timber wall and functioning as storage and division. Deeper into the plan, a bathroom ‘cube’ hinges between living and sleeping spaces. The cube articulates as a holistically finished, contained object – its uniformly grey micro-cemented floors, walls and ceiling eliminating traditional delineation.

Alongside visual economy, the selection of a limited material palette forms the bulk of the project's environmental considerations. Fewer materials mean less manufacturing, with timber – a sustainable material – leading the design’s material focus. Passive strategies for air flow and general thermal comfort also lessen the apartment's carbon footprint. The project’s strongest design gesture is its coherence in plan. From a disjointed set of micro-rooms to a long flowing cascade of living spaces, the Biccerija Flat adapts itself to a new mode of living, where privacy, tidiness, and space for communal recreation is actively prioritised.

Photography: MAS & Julian Vassallo

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