Valletta City Gate

15 July, 2010

Valletta City Gate

Renzo Piano Building Workshop proposal for the restoration of the site of the entrance into the medieval city of Valletta camera

By Maria Papadimitriou

Greek version

A project caused great controversy. Some described it as inventive; others reacted strongly against its creator and began collecting signatures for its non-implementation.

The proposal by Renzo Piano and his office to reform and restore the site of the entrance into the medieval city of Valletta is the reason of this controversy.

Specifically, Renzo Piano Building Workshop has proposed the restoration of the entrance Gate, the creation of the Parliament Building on Freedom Square and an open space of theatre and action in the site of the former Opera House.

The latter met the strongest reactions. The non-construction of an Opera House in the site of the old one was a key reason for public opposition. The Maltese hoped for a new Opera House that would offer to Valletta its medieval splendor. But this is not feasible because the space requirements for such a public building are much greater and practically it is not possible.

Renzo Piano gives his own answer "The aim is not to reproduce the past," says. The aim is to connect the new with the old; to maintain the past by using materials, stone and create something new, "modern and aligned with the current era." Ruins of the Opera House give the aura of the city of Valletta. Reproduction of an opera is not the issue.

For this reason, by preserving the remnants of the Opera House, which is essentially the outer skin, the outer columns, an open-air theatre is proposed.

"On the Opera Site, the existing Ruins have become part of Maltese history, consolidated in the collective memory. They should be retained. They create a presence, one of the few in the city, which recalls the violence of war. Yet their patina has raised these remains to a level of nobility, which when, combined with the illusion of theatre, can create magic in this vital area of the city."

Parliament Building is proposed to be built in the place of Freedom Square without disappearing it! A vast, well defined 'largo' measuring 60x25 meters will welcome the visitor immediately after crossing the gate, offering the ideal space for all kinds of popular manifestations as it did in the past.

For over three centuries, the Order of the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem has impregnated the architecture and urbanism of this land with foreign influences, and has determined the evolution of its language and its art by the presence of its own diverse cultural heritage. The World Heritage City of Valletta and its fortifications are the most visible symbol of this period and the City Gate, of course, is one of the keystones of its architecture

The local stone, that natural omnipresent element of Maltese construction, is the protagonist. Yet, if the gate calls for a strong, heavy and powerful use of this stone, the Parliament Building will introduce a new, vibrant, technically advanced interpretation of local stone construction technology. Used for the façade and its shading devices, it will express modernity linked with tradition and craft.

It is a unique opportunity given to the City of Valletta, to plan together within the framework of a coherent concept, these three elements of the project: Gate, Parliament and Opera; To breathe new life into an area which has been subject to controversy and doubtful urban success since the end of World War II.

Renzo Piano Building Workshop drawings for Valletta City Gate and a video from the exhibition of the proposal at the museum of Archeology in Valletta are presented below .


Renzo Piano's sketches © Rpbw, Renzo Piano Building Workshop


West elevation © Rpbw, Renzo Piano Building Workshop

Site section tunnel © Rpbw, Renzo Piano Building Workshop

© Rpbw, Renzo Piano Building Workshop


© Rpbw, Renzo Piano Building Workshop




Maria Papadimitriou, architect engineer
Information: kind courtesy Renzo Piano Building Workshop
Images: kind courtesy Renzo Piano Building Workshop




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