The new ‘social hub’ for Simonds Farsons Cisk, was completed in 2018, and replaced facilities programmed to be demolished to make way for the new Trident Business Park. It comprised two main and seemingly contradictory elements positioned side by side; a rowdy canteen for employees, and a “chapel” space for quiet contemplation, for snatched moments of calm away from the daily routine and for the well frequented weekly religious ceremonies.
The space available at the base of the fully operational New Brewhall, completed in 2012, was however only sufficient for the canteen. In order to gain additional area, yet retain full use of, and unencumbered access around the working yard one floor below, the chapel was cantilevered and hung off the side of the building above, within a very constricted space.
The challenge was to create a serene, tranquil and spiritual environment conducive to contemplation within the most chaotic of industrial settings. We took our inspiration from gothic spaces to create the right conditions of light, sound, warmth and privacy, using a restricted palette of material and colour to minimize material distraction and allow room for thoughts to wander.
The hung steel frame is enclosed with high specification glazing and a specially treated polycarbonate screen just outside, providing protection from solar gain, allowing for diffused light levels within, and shielding views in and out of the space (though not completely).The dark wooden floors and the timber slatted and open soffit, introduce a warmth to contrast the perceptible cold of the retained fair-faced concrete of the existing building, and help soften the sound and reduce reverberations; the dark reflective surfaces glowing from the incidence of light rays squeezing through the glazed south east corner.
By contrast, the canteen is comfortingly utilitarian, a gathering space for dining, recreation, and casual encounters away from the employee’s normal place of work.
The previously open concrete frame supporting the laboratory and offices above was simply enclosed, and a kitchen and self-service spaces discretely introduced, leaving an open, bright space with a south facing outdoor dining terrace profiting from views towards Mdina.
Sean Mallia, Tracey Sammut