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The oldest house in Birkirkara's Main Street faces demolition

Property near police station risks being replaced by a block of flats

A development application is requesting Planning Authority approval for this Birkirkara house’s demolition and replacement by a block of flats and a penthouse.

A development application is requesting Planning Authority approval for this Birkirkara house’s demolition and replacement by a block of flats and a penthouse.

The oldest surviving house in Main Street (Triq il-Kbira), Birkirkara, an Urban Conservation Area, is in imminent danger of being destroyed.

Prof. Mario Buhagiar, of the University's Department of Art and Art History writes in The Sunday Times of Malta that a deve­lopment application is requesting Planning Authority approval for its demolition and replacement by a block of flats and a penthouse.

The house, next door to the residence of President Emeritus Eddie Fenech Adami and the Birkirkara police station, has not been lived in for a number of years and the development application describes it as a dilapidated building.

"The house has maintenance problems but its old Maltese vernacular architectural language makes it worthy of protection. Stylistic and technical considerations suggest a late 16th or early 17th century date on presumably earlier foundations. In spite of later accretions and modifications it merits documentation, study and restoration," Prof Buhagiar said.

The fact that, in spite of 18th and 19th century architectural pressures, it managed to survive with minimum alterations enriches its building significance

Like buildings of its age, the property had an arched doorway built of massive voussoirs which are still a principal feature in spite of the fact that, as normally happened, they were mutilated when the door was recut into a square-headed shape. Its recessed situation from the other houses lining the street, are, with its grassroots building language, a further testimony of an earlier age.

"The fact that, in spite of 18th and 19th century architectural pressures, it managed to survive with minimum alterations enriches its building significance and makes it worthy of protection, not demolition."

Prof Buhagiar observes that Birkirkara has a rich architectural heritage, and areas such as Għar il-Ġobon and Sqaq Busawra are among the most evocative remaining examples of a Maltese late medieval urban setting.

The Triq Il-Kbira house could have belonged to a simi­lar, albeit somewhat later, urban cluster. It is an isolated reminder of what the once semi-rural Triq il-Kbira was like before its Baroque transformation as the chief artery to the town’s hub, with its great 18th-century church of St Helena.

"Approval of the house’s demolition would have a damaging impact on the historical and cultural identity of a historic Maltese streetscape. The Planning Authority and the Superintendence of the Cultural Heritage should, with the support of the Birkirkara local council, give its preservation and restoration the attention it deserves," he insists.

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