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ERDF 039: Restoration and Rehabilitation of Historical Fortifications of Malta and Gozo

Project Cost: €40,354,949
Beneficiary: Restoration Department
Line Ministry: Ministry for Justice, Culture and Local Government
Start Date: 2008
End Date: 2015

Non Technical Short Summary Of Project

The project, through the restoration and rehabilitation of the land front fortifications of Valletta and Birgu, and of Mdina and the Citadel in Gozo, has improved the presentation and accessibility of four of the major historical attractions/sites that Malta has to offer.

Operational Programme: OPI Investing in Competitiveness for a Better Quality of Life ERDF
Fund: European Regional Development Fund
Operational Objective: To promote the Maltese Islands as a prime and diverse tourist destination;
Priority Axis: PA2 Promoting Sustainable Tourism
Focus Area Of Intervention: OPIPA2 Product Development
Focus Area of Intervention: OPIPA2 Niche Market Development and Branding

Project Objectives

The fortifications of Valletta, Mdina, Birgu and the Gozo Citadel constitute an important part of the tourism product that the Maltese islands have to offer. These historic ramparts from an integral part of the Maltese landscape and are also important architectural and cultural monuments in their own right. Most of our tourism product is sold around the unique iconographic and visual power that these monuments provide. These fortifications are, and have been for a very long while, a core feature of the Maltese tourism product that is widely used to publicise the island's assets on all tourists brochures. Yet, despite their inherent historical and architectural significance, and importance to tourism, the larger parts of these historic ramparts are to be found in a very poor state of preservation, owing largely to the inability, to date, to address the line scale and magnitude of the task of restoring such massive works and more importantly, the inequality of the limited resources that have been available so far as to maintain and repair these extensive works. Owing to their present consumed and decayed state, therefore, these prime and highly visible fortifications are both visually unattractive and as such do little to promote Malta's brand image and claim as a cultural destination. It is to be stressed that in various places the poor state of the fortifications serves as a cause for ridicule and concern owing to the high degree of erosion, vegetation, structurally instability, misuse and treat to public safety, when instead, those historical ramparts should be a source of national pride and identity. The effort that s necessary to redress this state of affairs can only materialise with the assistance provided by ERDF support. The project for the restoration of the fortifications of Valletta, Birgu (with parts of the intra-mural spaces), sections of the fortifications of Mdina and the Gozo Citadel is designed to bring these important cultural and touristic sites back to an acceptable standard of presentation, whereby they will once again require their due attractiveness, dignity, architectural legibility and visual power, important aspects that have suffered considerably over the past decades. The investment provided by this project will upgrade the quality of the fortifications as prime tourism sites. The proposed restoration works, once completed in their totality, will also serve to recuperate various areas currently unutilised and make them available for culture activities or their purposes, thereby adding to their overall rehabilitation and greater integration into the tourism product that the Maltese islands have to offer. The project will help revalorise the image of the fortifications and allow Malta to retain its competitive edge in the cultural tourism sector. The project's impact on tourism, and on the overall economy in general, therefore, will be largely at the macro level, since the restored fortifications will enable a better image of the tourism product that the country already has on offer.

Project Results

The main primary and underlying concern in promoting this project has always been the restoration of the decaying architectural fabric of the fortifications (135,000 metres squared of restored rampart elevation). The most important result is that the fortifications, once restored, will once again regain their architectural and cultural integrity befitting prime cultural-tourism sites; integrity that has been diminished over the years owing to the processes of decay, urbanisation, and pollution brought about the various factors. The restored fortifications will provide renewed opportunities for revalorisation and reuses by other stakeholders. In many ways this project is akin to the repair of an extensive, but rundown, network of arterial roads once repaired, these would improve traffic flow, reduce accidents and ultimately facilitate commerce. The possibility of offering tours around the fortifications should be pursued in the future, however, it can only materialise after the fortifications have been repaired and restored in their totality, and not during the duration on the project both for safety and aesthetic reasons. As such, this and other related activities which will be able to materialise after completion of the project cannot be used to measure and judge the success of the restoration project. The very benefit to tourism that will accrue from this project lies squarely in MRRA ability to restore the very fabric if these fortifications. It makes little sense for a country which seeks to promote its cultural assets, particularly as part of its tourism product) and its brand name when it then presents its prime assets in a neglected and consumed state of repair. As for the improved accessibility that will result from certain aspects of this project, this will be in the form of the recuperation of some of the unused areas of the fortifications in question, including underground passage ways which link the ditches to the interior of the ramparts

Project Purpose

The projects intends to achieve the following objectives for each of the four chosen sites: Valletta: The main scope of the project is the restoration of the Bastions and masonry revetments and the scraped bedrock of the main bastioned front of Valletta - a world heritage site - together with its outer screen of counterguards and advanced works. The project also seeks to identify and promote the spaces within the fortifications in such a way so as to maximise the cultural potential of the fortifications. Birgu: The main scope of the project is to restore and rehabilitate the Birgu fortifications, in such a manner as to re-establish the physical connections in the Cottonera area between the Birgu seafront, Bormla and Kalkara seafront. Mdina: The main scope of this project is to consolidate the fragile terrain on which the bastion walls and historic places such as the Vilhena Palace at the entrance to Malta's medieval capital city are built in order to diminish and possibly stop further settlement and damage of these historic legacies. Gozo Citadel: The main scope of this project is to restore and repair the ramparts of the Cittadella and to consolidate the fragile face and medieval ramparts on the northern part of the enceinte.