Ħondoq through the eyes of students
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Ħondoq through the eyes of students

The future of Gozo’s Ħondoq ir-Rummien may still be in the balance but if it were up to a bunch of architecture students, it would be turned into an innovative nature park, complete with a submerged kiosk, an imaginative use of the quarries – and no yacht marinas.

The merging of water, heritage and nature was the driving force behind the design of three fourth-year students, the recipients of the Julian Manduca Award for the Sustainable Development of Rural Areas.

They have made it a point not to build over existing resources but to use the quarries, creating a spiral Guggenheim-style ramp in one, ensconced in a perforated nest on which vegetation can grow abundantly.

The award is the initiative of environment NGO Flimkien Għal Ambjent Aħjar in synergy with the university and the Qala local council. FAA and the University chose the setting, in this case Ħondoq ir-Rummien, and architecture students submitted their proposals for the site – which is subject to a real development application for a yacht marina strongly opposed by environment groups.

The winners of the prize, Joseph Galea, Nicky Psaila Savona and Zack Xuereb Conti know the site inside out, having visited it regularly for a year. Their plans may not materialise but they offer an “eye opener for possibilities, even just taking elements of it”. They have steered clear of the “common way of making profit in Malta – through bulky construction”, considering the site from the environmental and social aspect, and how money can be generated from that. The area is geared up for a number of activities, including diving, boċċi and even folk entertainment near a rehabilitated fort.

The project is complete with dampers to counter the waves and underwater fins to collect energy from the currents to use on the site.

“These technologies exist and work – they are not just there for show,” the future architects explained.

A second award, the Tony Attard Award for Urban Conservation Area Projects, which focuses on conservation, has still to be awarded. Students have come up with some innovative ideas to clean up Valletta, including the shop fronts by the use of identical signage and matching canopies. The law courts have been redesigned; shopping arcades have been spruced up and are looking uniform; while the development of inaccessible dead roof space is considered “a revived resource”.

Old façades cover contemporary interiors and a fashion house plays with the lacy effect of wrought-iron grills, typical of the city, while retaining its architectural idiom.

An exhibition with the projects of the students for those for Ħondoq ir-Rummien and Valletta is being held at the Heritage Malta offices in Merchants Street, Valletta and will run till Wednesday.

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