Chalet in Action: [REPLAY from NIDUM/Transparadiso]

The Government, through Malta Strategic Partnership Projects ltd, recently launched another Request for Proposals for the redevelopment of the Sliema Chalet site in Ghar id-Dud, seeking a concessionaire for the development, operation, and maintenance of the property as a ‘superior quality catering and entertainment establishment’.

Originally an enigmatic venue, held very dear by many until its closure in 1963 and its eventual demolition, the wave-battered base of the original 1926 Chalet structure is what remains today: a community ‘owned’, freely accessible, unassigned space for people to use as they please.

In 2019 Openworkstudio’s sister office, NIDUM invited Sliema residents to meet and brainstorm to reimagine a potential future purpose for the Chalet. The initiative, organised with Austrian-based Transparadiso, formed part of the office’s contribution to an exhibition “Public Architecture – Future for Europe“, held at the Schusev Museum in Moscow in 2020.  The exhibition gathered 40 international architects to communicate their ideas and visions that contribute to the revitalisation and prosperity of cities and present alternative architectural approaches for the benefit of communities and the preservation of cultural heritage.

Focussing specifically on the Chalet, participants in the workshops were invited to answer a set of questions about their memories of public space in their childhood, what they miss in Sliema, and what was and what remains today special about the Chalet amongst other matters.

Granted by a concession in 1923, following a similar public call, entrepreneur Carmelo Axisa’s winning ‘new entertainment chalet’, designed by Major Benjamin Cordwell still evokes emotion and nostalgia in generations of Maltese as “a real site to behold”, “beautifully constructed in reinforced concrete on a jutting rock with two spacious storeys, having accommodation for refreshments, dancing, and bathing, for hundreds of people at one time”(Malta Chronical), and “a place synonymous with life, romance, style, music, show-offs, mischief and pride” (Sliema resident).

Suffering a direct bomb strike during the second world war, the Chalet never fully recovered, being declared structurally unsound in 1959.

However, today, what do people want from this site? What do they envisage the Chalet to become? The 2019 workshops gave the residents a voice and provided for their participation in the process to determine the future use of the space.

We invite you to watch once again, the powerful ‘Chalet Interview’ video, by Jeremy Debattista, presented at the Moscow exhibition.

And you can view again Maltarti’s report on the exhibition (video by Karl-Andrew Micallef) here.