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Tarxien megalithic temples to get Ħaġar Qim treatment

An artist’s impression of the structure that will protect the Tarxien temples from the elements.

An artist’s impression of the structure that will protect the Tarxien temples from the elements.

The megalithic temples in Tarxien are to be shielded from the elements with a tent-like structure similar to the ones installed at Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra temples.

Unlike those protective coverings, which feature stretched fabric, however, the Tarxien structure will have an undulating metal mesh covered by translucent glass fibre membrane.

The construction of the shelter, which will have a footprint of around 2,700 square metres, has long been a controversial issue, especially because of the visual impact it might have on the temple.

But for hundreds of years, the temples, which enjoy World Heritage site status, have been damaged by the elements and ground humidity.

Yesterday, the planning authority unanimously approved plans for the shelter which will help protect it. The application was submitted by Heritage Malta.

Architect Alex Torpiano, who presented the project, explained that several designs had been submitted and discarded for being too heavy, before finally choosing the lattice.

“The lattice shell structure allows for curvature so it softens the design, making it a light structure,” he explained to the board.

The shelter will be anchored by metal support structures and these would have the largest physical impact, Mr Torpiano said. In fact, the project is largely reversible.

The project was recommended for approval precisely because of its reversibility and the protection offered. The case officer pointed out that the visual impact of the temples was already “heavily compromised” by the urbanisation of the area, especially by the nearby church.

But the final shape of the lattice shell will only be determined after the position of the support structures is established and once wind simulation studies are carried out. The studies, for example, will ensure that no air pockets are created beneath. Any changes will have to be approved by the planning authority and the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage.

The works will be monitored by the Superintendence to make sure the site is not damaged and in case any undocumented archaeological remains are found.

The Tarxien temples were uncovered by Sir Temi Zammit between 1915 and 1919 after farmers who tilled their fields there informed him that they were constantly striking large blocks of stone.

The complex is made up of four separate but attached temple structures and is visited by around 100,000 people a year.

A statue of the fat lady was discovered on site along with stone etchings and graffiti of ships believed to be the oldest in the world.

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