Residents are up in arms over the potential destruction of the oldest surviving house in Main Street, Birkirkara.
Posters and banners have been affixed to the front of the building, which is located “at the core” of Birkirkara’s urban conservation area, urging people to object to the planned development.
Mario Buhagiar, from the University’s Department of Art and Art History, raised the alarm following a development application to demolish the house and replace it 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 been unoccupied for a number of years and the application describes it as a dilapidated building.
Objectors have called for its protection, arguing that its historical value made it worthy of documentation, study and restoration.
The proposed penthouse is too large compared to other roof structures in the area, according to one of the posters displayed by objectors. The building was not “dilapidated”, as described in the application, but could be saved and easily turned into a local heritage museum, they insisted.
“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,” Prof. Buhagiar had said.
The house also has very rare architectural features, according to objectors.
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, Prof. Buhagiar had pointed out.
Building has very rare architectural features
“Its recessed situation from the other houses lining the street is, with its grassroots building language, further testimony of an earlier age,” he noted.
Objections poured in after Prof. Buhagiar’s comments.
Flimkien Għal Ambjent Aħjar insisted the building was unquestionably one of cultural, social and historic value. The redevelopment of the site, and disregard of its restoration and conservation, ran counter to the strategic plan for environment and development, it said.
“In a country where money has already, for the most part, become the justification for many acts of ignorance and shame, particularly when it comes to our physical environment, I implore you to not allow for more of our beautiful cultural treasures to be discarded, devalued and defaced,” one objector pleaded.