Friday, 24 January 2020
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Barrakka Lift Tower: Loved and admired

The Barrakka Lift Tower in Valletta, the capital of Malta, is the most important connection to the historical fort.

The Barrakka Lift Tower in Valletta. (Photo: © Sean Mallia)

It transports tourists and commuters from the shore of the Mediterranean up to the stronghold, which was erected in the sixteenth century to protect the city against invaders. There used to be a lift tower here too. Put into operation in 1905, the lift was shut down in 1973 and dismantled in 1983 – there were no financial resources for its maintenance.

But in the meantime tourism in Malta has boomed. Another lift was needed to provide the visitors who reach island via the cruise ship terminal near the old city with convenient access to the sights of the Maltese capital. Kone was engaged for this purpose.

Conditions were not simple

HandwerkThe conditions for the construction of the new lift were not simple. The old lift fitted in harmoniously with the historic city landscape and was very popular. On top of this, there were numerous protected monument guidelines. The challenge for Kone was to adjust the lifts to the tower design of the architectural firm Architecture Project and comply with the guidelines of the consulting engineer Ray Spiteri.

“We were highly gratified that our vision gradually took on shape,” recalled Konrad Buhagiar, founding partner of Architecture Project. To test whether the tower design was also practical, Kone conducted computer simulations and wind tunnel tests.

Wonderful view of the fort

To let the unique surroundings work their magic, the company installed two MiniSpace panorama glass lifts: they provide a wonderful view of the fort, its walls and the harbour. Every time a cruise ship anchors, the lifts have to transport up to 800 passengers an hour. They overcome a height of 58 m in half-a-minute with every lift car providing room for up to 21 passengers.

HandwerkThe heavy usage of the lifts, but also the effect of water, salt and wind require intensive maintenance and close monitoring. This is achieved by the remote maintenance system Kone E-Link: it ensures that service technicians can react quickly if necessary. In addition, the lifts have regenerative drives with which braking energy can be converted into electrical power, which is fed back into the grid.

And what do the Maltese think about the new Barrakka lift tower? It is in fact reminiscent of the former tower that used to stand there. And tourists? They love it.

Stathi Vassiliadis

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