Villa Castro is located in the town of Naxxar, in the centre of the island of Malta. Its location on the perimeter of an Urban Conservation Area has led to drastic modification of the original setting of the villa, recent building developments destroying irreversibly its original context.
The project programme was organised around the needs of a family and guestrooms to accommodate relatives and friends. The garden, as well as the two internal courtyards, were preserved and, following an unsuccessful attempt at acquiring the remaining portion of the garden immediately adjacent to the existing one, an extension was designed and grafted on the boundary wall to mitigate the negative visual impact of the recent neighbouring block of apartments.
The restoration element of the project entailed the securing of dangerous parts, the removal of inserted structures and accretions which conflicted with the authentic organisation of space or with the clarity of architectural form, the reopening of blocked arches and the introduction of a few additional openings to allow firstly for more light into the building and, secondly, to strengthen the already well defined symmetry of the garden and courtyard facades. The same principle guided the organisation of the external areas. The existing spaces were organised accordingly to the needs of the clients, leaving the ground floor for living, play and entertainment while dedicating the upper entirely to individual bedrooms. Since the depth of the old annex structures is very narrow and rooms typically distributed in an ‘enfilade’ arrangement, an external access balcony was added replacing an existing open balcony. Moreover, a new stairwell designed in a contemporary language was introduced in an existing back yard to link the long string of rooms aligned along the perimeter, as well as to create space for another bedroom above it.
A new extension was built with just enough thickness to house guest quarters that tower over the garden and screen off the new development while closing off the composition of the garden and defining its end facade. They are lifted over the ground on slender columns in order not to obstruct the cornices and pilasters and the pediment of the gate which once led to the garden beyond. All new extensions were conceived as simple volumes and are defined and positioned to compliment, and coexist with the existing building. They are treated in such a way as to allow maximum light on the inside while retaining a monolithic appearance from the outside in sympathy with the old building. Although almost entirely glazed, this is achieved by means of a dense wooden screen, creating a composition based on the contrast of materiality. The screens are made from American cedar, which will, over time, acquire a natural protective patina of silvery grey that blends in with the limestone surfaces of the old house.
Like all projects that involve the rehabilitation and extension of old structures, time is an important element of the composition of which the building is made, and that will unravel with time.