Transforming The Iconic Macina

Sarah Micallef - 30th December 2017

The historic ‘Macina’ building has been a permanent fixture overlooking Malta’s Grand Harbour since 1554, but it has come a long way since its days as a 16th century ship repair building. Following an extensive restoration and design project, the team at DAAA Haus discuss how they made it happen.

“It was a privilege to work on such a prestigious site,” the team at DAAA Haus state, speaking of their recently completed project. And it’s hardly surprising – formerly a 16th century ship repair building, the Macina certainly takes its place among Malta’s many distinguished historical sites.

Because of this, they say, “it was essential to retain many of the fantastic architectural features the building already had to offer.” Indeed, the aim behind the project was to combine natural features and traditional materials with modern clean lines, and the resulting design expertly juxtaposes what is truly old and of historic value with the new. “With amazing and intriguing communal spaces, large high vaulted ceilings, ample natural light and unobstructed marina views, a minimal design was enough to create a luxury environment,” the DAAA Haus team explain.


At the start of the project, the building had lain derelict for years, necessitating extensive rebuilding and restoration. “DAAA Haus follows a standard procedure when starting a project. After going on site, internal meetings in which many brainstorming sessions on design direction took place, after which a concept was constructed for the boutique hotel. The building itself inspired the design direction – its restoration was a big defining factor when it came to the process of the design direction.”

Elaborating on the design, they explain that designing a modern contemporary hotel within the unique Macina building called for a strong palette of raw natural materials, not to mention a great amount of respect for the building. “Each room and corridor is unique, and therefore called for bespoke furniture and carpentry throughout. Meanwhile, the materials chosen had to be strong in character, high quality and well balanced, much like the building itself,” they maintain. Indeed, the team elected to use a combination of lacquered raw steel, limed oak and Carrara marble, slate, lava stone, Maltese hard stone and custom tinted glass and mirror throughout – contemporary materials that sit elegantly within the walls of Macina, reflecting light and the colours within the building.


The DAAA Haus team went on to design custom furniture for every space within the building, that was then crafted by local craftsmen and carpenters, they explain, while for other pieces, they worked with reputable European designers to source unique lighting and finishing touches for each room. “Tom Dixon, Flos and Louis Paulson lights sit with hand-tufted wool rugs, Scandinavian furniture and bespoke Italian sofas and beds. Bathrooms are a stark contrast to the chalk white walls and limestone throughout the building. Bathrooms are lined in contemporary natural slate, with large walk-in showers, marble vanities and separate dressing or wardrobe space; with some rooms featuring a very luxurious standalone bath tub,” they maintain.

The rooms are certainly luxurious in size and appearance, and make for a truly worthy backdrop. Made up of large vaulted spaces with arches, mezzanines which float above huge custom bathrooms, as well as unique and historical industrial features from Macina’s former life as a ship repair building are on view everywhere. Rooms and common areas are also washed in natural light through custom linen curtains.


Asked about the inspiration behind the impressive space, the team say that the project was inspired by the history of the building. “It is a unique design, mainly involving the restoration of the seafront fortified building into the luxury boutique hotel it has blossomed into today,” they say. “Macina is a testament of taste, quality and luxury, reflecting the lifestyle of the guests that will be residing in the ultra-luxury suites.”

A feature that certainly sticks out is the iconic lift found in the heart of the building. “Modern materials are used against traditional Maltese limestone, creating a beautiful contrast. Going up in the lift is also a part of the experience for the guests, as it provides iconic views of the surrounding architectural features,” the team explains.

Meanwhile, a project of this scale and complexity does not come without its challenges, and the team faced a few of these throughout the process, when unforeseen issues cropped up due to the intricate architecture of the building, and plans needed to be adapted accordingly. “The main challenges were adapting the design to the many architectural features the building provided, retaining the essence of the building and further enhancing it by juxtaposing these with modern materials and minimal design,” they say – a feat that, given the Macina’s remarkable transformation today, was certainly a worthy one.

This feature originally appeared in the December issue of the Commercial Courier


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