Our article on the development of Valletta’s City Gate area continues to provoke comment, mostly negative. Meanwhile, the Master Plan for Cittadella in Rabat, Gozo, has been forming quietly over the years. Similarly focusing on a city gate, it also looks at a visitors’ centre and developing a water heritage trail. Here, we’ve given space to Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar, a vociferous NGO in heritage and environmental issues. Their verdict on this plan is positive. Malta loves Master Plans – is this one a turning point then? Astrid Vella of FAA spells out the details.
Heritage Management that is both Sensitive and Innovative
Flimkien għal Ambjent Aħjar welcomes the MEPA Board’s approval of the permits for the Cittadella Masterplan and Visitors’ Centre, dealing with the restoration, upgrading and rehabilitation of Gozo’s unique citadel. The project’s holistic and sophisticated treatment of the whole area shows that a great deal of thought has gone into these plans which will partly close the 1950s arch in the bastions and reinstate the original entrance to the citadel, which many visitors to the Cittadella are not even aware of. The positioning of the visitors’ centre below the bastions also valorises another unknown feature of the fortifications, as the sally-port or hidden exit within the bastions will be used as an access from the visitors’ centre to the upper level of the fortified structure.
The Cittadella Masterplan will provide improved access to the bastions and make better use of some of the buildings within the citadel. FAA particularly welcomes the re-use of the enormous old water reservoirs just beneath the citadel’s outer walls which in the 90s were risking demolition. The innovative use of these reservoirs as a non-intrusive visitors’ centre is an excellent example of rehabilitation of an old structure. While being modern in treatment, this conversion does not jar with the surroundings and will greatly increase our appreciation of the Cittadella’s past role, as well as attracting many more tourists to this historic site. While it is appreciated that dismantling the flank of the reservoir that was attached to the bastions is necessary to restore a clear view of the bastion-line, FAA is gratified that our request to retain the first and last of the arches as a memory of the past structure is being favourably considered.
Part of the visitors’ centre/reservoir will form part of a water heritage trail to highlight the importance of the perched aquifer that lies just beneath the Cittadella which was the reason why this hill was chosen as an ideal defensive post centuries ago. The water trail will focus on traditional systems of water conservation in wells and even in a cavern, which will link the heritage theme with the Eco-Gozo sustainability concept. The whole Cittadella project is to be monitored by archaeologists from MEPA’s Heritage Protection Unit and the Superintendance of Cultural Heritage
This Masterplan which has received input from many sources over a number of years proves that proper planning that is sensitive to the heritage context, along with extensive consultation with local groups, has resulted in a rehabilitation project which should meet every sector’s requirements and approval.
Photo: Cathedral, Gozo, within Cittadella. Courtesy: Leslie Vella.