The former Parliament chamber, embedded in people’s memories as the venue of so many historic and feisty sittings, has been stripped of its fittings and famous purple hue.
It is now being transformed into a fresh, bright hall in preparation for hosting informal EU ministerial meetings during Malta’s 2017 EU presidency.
The chamber’s furnishings used to include wooden platforms, franka-dressed stone elements and light fittings hanging from the ceiling. It now has a modern-looking ceiling design and gypsum walls.
The chamber, which in 1976 had replaced the armoury within the Grandmaster’s Palace in Valletta, was last used as a Parliament in April of last year, before the House of Representatives migrated to the new Parliament building just inside City Gate.
The plan was that it would once again host the Palace Armoury but this has been put on hold.
The old chamber will now be the main venue for Malta’s fast-approaching EU presidency, to be held in the first six months of next year.
The process entailed the dismantling of the furniture by hand. Each piece was passed on to Heritage Malta for conservation
The project also includes offices for people working for the presidency, a press room and a room for European Commission delegates.
Transport and Infrastructure Minister Joe Mizzi told Parliament this week that the process entailed the dismantling of the furniture by hand. Each piece was numbered and passed on to Heritage Malta for conservation.
The hanging light fittings have been stored for safekeeping in the Palace basement, and the chairs that once formed what was known as the Strangers’ Gallery are stored in the Heritage Malta warehouses of the newly restored Fort St Elmo in Valletta.
Other wooden pieces taken from the Stranger’s Gallery were brought to the ministry’s warehouses in Żebbuġ, while the stone slabs that once formed the cladding of the chamber were taken to the Heritage Malta stores in Bighi, Kalkara.
The audio control room above, where the Speaker’s chair used to be, was also dismantled.
Some parts of the old Parliament which were not considered to be of much importance were taken for recycling.
The restoration process is expected to cost some €5 million.
The project is led by the Grand Harbour Regeneration Corporation, which has also been tasked with finishing the new House of Representatives in Valletta. The contractor is Mediterranean Building Finishes Limited.