The local council of Valletta, Malta, has criticised plans to install a rooftop viewing platform and panoramic lifts at the Mediterranean Conference Centre (MCC).
The council raised concerns about the effect of the proposal on the heritage of the Grade 1-scheduled building, originally the Sacra Infermeria of the Knights of St John. Further complaints were made about the impact of noise and pollution.
The new design features a raised viewing platform and glass railing on the roof of the MCC, as well as two panoramic lifts intended to carry 32 passengers directly from the roof to the Long Ward.
The extensive proposal also includes restoration work on the existing building.
Valletta’s Planning Authority have recommended the plans for approval, which has the backing of the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage and the Heritage Advisory Committee.
However, objectors have suggested the visual impact of the project would have a detrimental effect on the historic building.
A local resident, who has worked in the cultural heritage protection sector for over 20 years said: “The insertion of the glass lift structures would mutilate and trivialise these architectural volumes, turning a sombre monument of the Hospitallier Order into a Disneyfied joyride of dubious value.”
Heritage NGO Din l-Art Ħelwa, which is also among the objectors, said the proposals would irreversibly change the layout of the building.
“The triviality of making this permanent change to the historical interior of the hospital of the Knights, for the sake of taking up tourists to its roof, makes a mockery of the Sacra Infermeria,” the organisation said.
UNESCO has asked planners to prepare a views and vista analysis for the project.
The Valletta council also raised the issue of a the lack of emergency exits from roof level. The council questioned how people would escape from the roof in the event of a fire, given that the lifts would be inaccessible in an emergency.
As for the negative visual impacts, the council insisted that simply creating a setback of the railing would not be enough to mitigate the effect. A statement read: “In reality, the proposal implies that an extra one-metre height will be added to the existing parapet wall, which is already in itself an accretion, and thus the intervention will make this accretion permanent.”