Superintendence okays Savoy hotel’s ‘contemporary’ design

Contemporary design will make historical part more visible, says heritage authority but Din l-Art Helwa warns that the modern addition will ‘overwhelm’ the site

Top: A view of the existing Savoy hotel as seen from Rue d’Argens and, Below: a photomontage of the finished project as proposed
Top: A view of the existing Savoy hotel as seen from Rue d’Argens and, Below: a photomontage of the finished project as proposed

Malta’s national heritage authority has issued its clearance for the  contemporary design being proposed for additions to the former Savoy hotel which it claims will “enhance the legibility of the historical part of the property” while also ensuring that the new additions are “immediately identifiable as later construction”.

This emerges from the  Superintendence for Cultural Heritage’s assessment of plans to transform the abandoned hotel in to a business centre.

The project still needs the approval of the Planning Authority but the approval of the SCH clears a major hurdle for the development being proposed in a landmark listed building.

The SCH also noted that the volumes proposed above the ex hotel are receded so as not to impede the legibility of the historical structure, while also screening the unsightly blank party wall looming over it. Moreover, the proposed volumes flanking the hotel will screen the high contemporary buildings in the immediate background of the hotel.

The SCH has also proposed the imposition of a €23,000 bank guarantee to be forfeited upon the conclusion of the works.

But the SCH’s approval contrasts with the objection of Din l-Art Helwa, one of Malta’s leading heritage lobby.

DLH maintains that the proposed setback floors lying directly above the Grade 2 scheduled building will detract from its architectural value since these additions together with the new annexed development will overwhelm the site.

“Such additions are being deemed excessive and fail to ensure the protection of the Grade 2 scheduled building’s architectural and historical value”, the organisation said in an objection.

Project developer, Exalco Properties, has recently released photomontages of the proposed building, showing how it will look like for passersby.

CVC Architecture studio, responsible for the project’s design, had  also presented a design statement to justify its choice for a “contemporary extension”.

The extension “is intentionally designed to contrast drastically with the original building” while “being set back” in a way that “remains subservient to the historic building” and further  enhance “the original architectural fabric which will be fully restored as part of this project”.

The Savoy Business centre is being proposed on the site of the former Savoy Hotel, a historic building which has landmark status at the top of Triq d’Argens at the gateway to Sliema approaching from Gzira.

For the architects the historic building and its front garden offer an opportunity to re-invent the building within today’s context “of a dense urban and traffic congested environment” with the creation of a new business centre. The architects believe it offers an opportunity for urban regeneration.

The project as proposed also includes  contemporary receded floors proposed above the historic building. Apart from physically linking the extension to the historic building, the receded floors will screen the unsightly large blank party walls which currently exist.

The building was granted Grade 2 protection status by the Planning Authority in 2018.

The plans envisage four basement parking levels, a cafeteria on ground floor level and six overlying office floors, including two receded floors on top of the old building and a six-floor extension over an annex building which will be demolished.

The plans also envisage the restoration of the existing dilapidated Savoy Hotel main building and the demolition of both the derelict ’annex’ and the disused fuel station within the same site.

The project also entails the restoration of a boundary wall and gates and the transformation of the front garden area into a pedestrianised terraced square.

The derelict Savoy Hotel had been sold off for a whopping €12.8 million during an auction held in September 2022.

The former Savoy Hotel, with its multi-faceted bay windows, is a landmark building at the top of Rue D’Argens that has been abandoned for years. The area is still known by the name of the former hotel.