Ggantija Streetscapes

Vernacular building near Neolithic temples faces wrecking ball as questions and unease remain

Case appears in front of the Planning Commission tomorrow

A block of flats on the periphery of Ggantija Temples appears to be on the home stretch for approval after the Planning Authority’s case officer recommended approval and the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage changed its position.  

Questions continue to swirl around the development – down to 22 flats from 27 originally – and these include questions around road alignment and traffic generation. The proposed block is situated along a fairly busy road, but the Planning Directorate, which is the technical team of the authority, has not mentioned anything or made any analysis about the impact of 22 flats on the traffic flow. The site is at a point where the road narrows.

There are also questions about the completeness of the submissions, and rigorousness of the assessments – the latter includes the completeness of what is called in planning as the streetscape analysis.

Yet the greater unease among heritage buffs is over the existing vernacular building. Interior pictures submitted by the applicant’s architect show an interior full of charm and vernacular elements. The exterior is also intriguing with a honeycomb of rooms whose lack of orderliness adds to the charm and brilliance of vernacular architecture.

Pictures of the interior of house submitted to the Planning Authority by applicant's architect

But instead of saving the old house in its entirety – and as an integral part of its location and setting, within sight of Ggantija Temples – the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage and Planning Authority have settled for the demolition of the building, and then simply incorporating its façade within the façade of the block of flats.

This has become something of a trend in recent years: old vernacular buildings engulfed within blocks of flats, creating something akin to a spoof rather than keeping the original in situ, and in the process making a mockery of the country’s cultural heritage.

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