Hospitality Malta 02 - Page 25

T he phrase “like a Phoenix rising from the ashes” popped in my head as I sat to pen this article. I wasn’t sure why until I did the research. As the story goes, the phoenix is a myth- ical bird with fiery plumage that lives up to 100 years. Near the end of its life, it settles in to its nest of twigs which then burns ferocious- ly, reducing bird and nest to ash- es. And from those ashes, a fledg- ling phoenix rises – renewed and reborn. When we spoke to Pierre Fenech he clearly underlined the fact that the fire actually gave the planners the opportunity to further revamp the place and to continue to in- crease its efficiency into the form it has today. “In fact, the main aim of this renovation was to realise the opportunity that the fire gave us to improve on what had already been developed and to improve on our original concepts based on the experience already gained. We even changed the orientation of the theatre stage and set it up on a different side, as it in fact is to- day,” he said. International Success As it nestles discreetly at the very tip of Valletta’s peninsula, the MCC was initially built by the Order of St John as a hospital in HOSPITALITY MALTA the Sixteenth Century (and it is typically assumed that the archi- tect who had been tasked with the building by Grand Master Jean de la Cassière is none other than Girolamo Cassar, architect of Val- letta itself). It served its role until around 1920. At that time it was one of the leading and biggest hospitals in Europe. It then had a chequered history of different roles in the policing, entertain- ment and education spheres. A third of the building was actual- ly destroyed during the Second World War and it wasn’t till the 1970s that its full restoration was started, with the intention of put- ting Malta on the international conference tourism map. Today, many of the major con- ferences in Malta take place in the Mediterranean Conference Centre, such as the two CHOGMs held here, the Valletta Summit and Malta’s EU Presidency open- ing which took place earlier this year. Many international com- panies also choose this building as the location for conferences, product launches or other impor- tant events on the international calendar. Pierre Fenech enthusiastically highlighted some opportunities which are offered to potential clients. “The reason why a very high percentage of internation- al and national companies decide to work with the Mediterranean A Quick History… 1574 The Knights of Malta built the MKCC as their Sacra Infermeria, the best hospital in Europe at that time, with the Long Ward accommodating 914 patients. 1798 With Napoleon’s takeover of Malta, it became known as the Grand Hopital 1800-1918 Under British rule it became the Garrison Hospital. During WW1 its location was ideal for landing patients directly from incoming hospital ships from the war fronts. 1918-1940 Turned into the Police Headquarters. 1945-1950 After being seriously damaged in World War II part of what remained of the Long Ward became the Command Hall, an entertainment centre for troops. 1950-1951 Became a Children’s cinema and theatre club. 1959-1975 Served as an examination hall. By the end of this time it had become a derelict building. 1975 Decision taken to transform it into the MCC - inaugurated in this new role in 1979. Awarded the coveted Europa Nostra Diploma of Merit for its superb restoration. SEPTEMBER | 2017 23