Today, a visitor, having passed the bastion walls and entered the city, will find nothing but a parking plot. The proposal to locate the new Parliament Building, the most representative democratic institution of the Republic, on this site stems from a desire to create a vibrant urbanity at the entrance to the town. Urbanity lives by density, by the transparency of its ground floor activities and the mixed use. With this in mind, it is proposed to house, on the ground floor of this building, an interactive Museum of Maltese History and Political Development. This shall be a place where visitors, Maltese citizens, young and old alike, students and tourists from all over the world, shall acquire an understanding of the history of the Maltese nation and the will of its people to stand as an equal with all other nations, naturally within a Euro/African/Mediterranean historical context. This will be achieved through the newest means of communication and information, including user activated and interactive screens, large screens for sequential presentations and 360 degree imagery. Interactive installations shall mix with original documents of value or replicas, while an ambient atmosphere created by appropriate music and sophisticated imagery and projections will be visible from the outside and designed to stimulate the curiosity of the passer-by.
The new construction will distance itself from St James’s Cavalier giving back to this historic structure its original grandeur and shape, not dissimilar to the situation for St John’s Cavalier. The new building itself is made of two massive volumes of stone, supported by stilts that recede from the façade to create an impression of suspension in air. The East block will house mainly the chamber and the speaker’s office; the West, all administrative offices for parliament members, the Ministers, the Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition. Both volumes are separated by a central courtyard, which is the main entrance to the Building. This court is shaped in such a way to allow views through it from the street of St John’s Cavalier.
Some activities, related to the business of Parliament, are housed in the basement, open to a planted court located at this lower level that is well protected from the impact of the sun. The Old Railway tunnel itself will be connected to the sunken garden in such a way as to make this otherwise unusable historical subterranean structure amenable for public use while preserving its authenticity and legibility.
One of the most important concepts from which this building derives its functionality regards energy. On the basis of today’s knowledge, we can assume that, through the stable temperature of the immense mass of the rock below, enough energy can be recovered to heat and cool the whole building. The introduction of a system of heat pumps should avoid the necessity of external cooling towers or additional boilers. This building provides us with an excellent chance to create a “zero (CO2) emission” building whose energy will be recovered by heat exchange with the underlying rock.