An art deco brewery transformed into a creative, sustainable workplace
The aim was to create a workplace where people would feel at home and with an aesthetic that both respects the building’s industrial past while responding to contemporary needs with open, multipurpose spaces. Owned by Farsons Cisk, the Brewhouse and Trident Park in Mriehel, Malta, has reopened after a long and complex rehabilitation and conversion project that has breathed new life into the 7000 m2 art deco building, transforming it into an interactive, versatile, and sustainable commercial campus.
The project was the work of London-based ritchie*studio, which won the competition for the redevelopment of the former brewery in 2013. New skylights and geometrically shaped openings incorporated into the existing structure have transformed the interiors into a series of interconnected spaces flooded with natural light.
Areas that were previously used for fermentation have been converted into coworking spaces, while storage areas are now occupied by microbreweries, exhibition halls, meeting rooms, and cafés, where anyone can enjoy the panoramic views that distinguish the whole island.
Beyond the brewery’s 200 m long art deco arcade, there are the six landscaped courtyards of Trident Park. These separate seven new mixed-use buildings, which occupy an area of some 15,000 m2. In fact, a large part of the site has been used for gardens, with the buildings only taking up 43% of the area.
Both the courtyards and gardens feature local plants, which, by including the colors of a nearby orchard, create a refuge for the senses. The design of the outdoor areas includes covered walkways that run along the southern and northern sides of the site, providing access to all levels of the complex.
The design of the Brewhouse and Trident Park embodies the wisdom built into this centuries-old place, while integrating into it the contemporary themes of efficiency and energy saving through design strategies such as natural ventilation and lighting, rainwater collection, and solar energy. The project, which is intended to achieve BREEAM Excellent certification, has a 55% lower carbon footprint than standard buildings in Malta, a figure that was achieved in part by the use of locally sourced materials.
The ambitious goal of creating workspaces that don’t require air conditioning in Malta’s hot climate was achieved through the orientation of the windows, which face east/west to ensure maximum natural ventilation. In addition, each building partially shades the next, with vertical sunshading completing the effect, while also creating evocative interplays of light and shade.
The centralized underfloor heating system is innovative, involving the use of water at 61–63°F (16–17°C) to cool the floor slabs at night, thus reducing energy needs during the day. The slabs also act as ceilings and have been left without light fittings. Instead, Levita wall and floor lamps have been used. Designed specifically for the project by Ian Ritchie and Ulrike Brandi, and manufactured by Castaldi Lighting, the lamps fill the workspaces with indirect light, creating a relaxing, comfortable atmosphere.
Architecture is about feelings: it stimulates the senses and goes beyond mere aesthetics. In the Mediterranean climate, workspaces not only need to be functional but must also offer a harmonious mix of elements so as to foster feelings of wellbeing. All of the rooms in this project have been designed to adapt to the changing needs of their occupants and the work they perform. For this reason, they are ideal both for startups and more structured companies with a larger workforce.
The floorplan ensures flexibility, with the areas available for rental ranging from whole floors to 200 m2 units. Each level has been designed to be adaptable to different future uses as homes, commercial accommodation, or hybrid spaces, halfway between home and work. And this herein lies the importance of this project as an example of a refurbished industrial building that can satisfy both present and future needs.
"Architecture is experienced through our senses, with emotional responses often informing our experience. The architect’s means of expression creates spaces of silence, sound, light and shadow that cater to a variety of human behaviours and interactions, allowing us to contemplate, discuss, work, dream and even achieve Zen moments. When we get it right as designers, the people experiencing the architecture feel a sense of wellbeing. Designing an environment for work, which becomes a ‘second home’ for the people in it, makes the architecture’s value for the users, and the architect’s satisfaction, even greater".
Ian Ritchie, Director, ritchie*studio
Location: Mriehel, Malta
Completion: June 2023
Gross Internal Floor Area: Trident Park – 15,000 m2 / The Brewhouse – 7,000 m2
Site Area: 20,000 m2
Client: Simonds Farsons Cisk PLC and Trident Park Ltd (subsidiary of Trident Estates PLC)
Architect, Interior Design, Masterplanning: ritchie*studio
Structures, Civil and Planning: TBA Periti
Environment: Doug King Consulting
Lighting: Ulrike Brandi Licht
Landscape: Joseph Borg
Acoustics: Gillieron Scott Acoustic Design
AV Consulting: Sarner International Ltd
Costs: Equals Consulting (London) and Sphere Projects (Malta)
Health & Safety: Resolve Consulting Limited
Wayfinding: Urban UX
Building Services and Fire Engineering: CASAinginiera
Lighting: Castaldi Lighting
Photography by Joe Smith, Ian Ritchie and Jean Claude Vancell, courtesy of ritchie*studio