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Piano project: 'a great improvement' - FWA

Fondazzjoni Wirt Artna said today that the Renzo Piano plans for the entrance of Valletta were a great improvement on those presented some 20 years ago by the same architect and that they were generally positive from a heritage point of view.

In 1988, FWA opposed the plans of the time and campaigned for the reconstruction of the Edward Middleton-Barry Royal Opera House.

"The plans as presented now suggest the retention and conservation of all the elements of heritage within the scope of the project which were endangered then, namely the Royal Opera House ruins, the Dingli viaduct across Valletta's main ditch and the Victorian underground train station. The overall nature of the project is impressive despite being overtly minimalistic in its nature. This should have a positive impact on the planned regeneration of Valletta," the NGO said.

"FWA fully approves the siting of the new Parliament building in place of present day Freedom Square. This move will rectify a gross post-war urbanistic mistake when one of the flanks of Republic Street, historically always occupied by buildings was turned into a massive square. Traditionally, baroque fortified towns or cities never have open spaces at the back of their main entrances, for long-established defensive reasons."

The foundation said the planned re-sizing of the bridge and gate to their original width was highly commendable. The same could be said for the conversion of the underground train station into a place of recreation including a public garden in the ditch.

"The main misgivings of FWA on the project are reserved to the panoramic lift on the right side of the main entrance which in our opinion will look unsightly and will disrupt the continuous homogeneity of the restored curtain wall. This facility can easily be accommodated within the wall thickness. The same goes for the ugly foreign vertical fillets that seem to demark the dimensions of the present day monstrous gate."

With regard to the Royal Opera House ruins, FWA said it was still of the view that this building ought to be rebuilt to its original 19th century design despite all the talk against the rebuilding of 'fakes'.

This could easily be done on the hugely successful model of Norman Foster's Reichstag in Berlin. In this case, the outside of the building had been restored and reconstructed as necessary whilst a new modern high-tech building was installed inside it. In this way both the past and present were very successfully served. Today, the Reichstag was one of the most visited public buildings visited in Germany not just for its national or political importance but for its ingenious and idyllic architecture.

Having said this, FWA said it commended the reversible treatment suggested for this building, which made it possible for such an approach to be taken in the future.

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