Our government has been impressed by names of international standing. This was why world-renowned architect Renzo Piano was selected to draw up plans for Valletta's City Gate, new Parliament building and Opera House; also because of previous commitments involving the government. The result is a disappointment, for which taxpayers are paying dearly.

I am afraid that Mr Piano has come up with a flop, an engineering and architectural style that does not make sense. City Gate will have a Babylonian entrance, according to his plans, with a gap in the bastions, something Grand Master Jean Parisot de la Valette would view with horror.

The street above City Gate is going to be eliminated, making access into Valletta much more difficult, and exacerbating parking problems in the city, unless a new visually nonsensical bridge were to be inserted in Mr Piano's outlandish plan. What about the city's residents and their requirements, which the present Pope Pius V Street is meeting to some extent?

Parliament on stilts? To afford a better view of St James Cavalier, Mr Piano claims. Valletta requires solid buildings, not flimsy ones. And a Parliament building at Valletta's entrance is controversial, since problems could arise during political demonstrations.

Who will be responsible for security? The site chosen does not guarantee this in the least. Mr Piano's envisaged Parliament building has a modern touch, which is not in keeping with Valletta's style.

During the last war the Opera House was heavily damaged, then the Borg Olivier government set about dismantling what was left, making rebuilding more problematic. And no one, or no government, has - quite rightly - the gall to replace the destroyed Opera House with a much more prosaic building. So why not rebuild and restore it? A new Opera House would function at least as well as Barry's 1866 original.

Its acoustics could be improved with modern techniques. Its supposedly insufficient room for props and backstage could, with some intelligent planning, be similarly improved and readapted.

These are not excuses for not rebuilding Barry's original building, which served Malta well for 75 years as the hub of our cultural scene.

Tourists and, especially, we Maltese would be able to attend similar performances, were it to be rebuilt as close to the original as possible.

Let us strongly encourage the arts and especially good music. Performances of opera and orchestral music are needed to promote this. So is a permanent roof for our philharmonic orchestra.

Yes, Mr Piano's plans for City Gate, Parliament and the partly roofed Opera House site are a big flop. And our government is committing a big blunder in going ahead with them.

George Borg Olivier was about to lay the foundation stone of the restored Opera House in 1971 (there is evidence to back this claim) - typically too late, as Labour leader Dom Mintoff had won that year's election and he stopped the rebuilding of the Opera House in its tracks.

The Opera House saga appears to be unending, since we won't restore the decent majestic building which we had before 1942, and cannot build anything else that is acceptable instead.Mr Piano's half-roofed theatre is a meaningless fiasco.

Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi should listen to the people's voice.

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