Malta Diary; From Argotti to Tritons
The fountain in Tritons Square has been symbolic of Malta since its inception in 1959, a national symbol that is the equivalent Big Ben of London, the Coliseum of Rome and the Eiffel Tower of Paris.
Sadly enough, over the decades, the whole zone stretching from the Argotti Gardens in Floriana to Tritons Square was sadly totally neglected and was allowed to deteriorate badly, including the fountain itself which over the years was extensively damaged and needed urgent repair.
In fact, the whole area had become a confused jungle of public transport buses, an array of multi badly-designed kiosks and a generally unkempt appearance, combined with pedestrian hazards dodging the myriads of coming and going buses.
The major project undertaken by the Grand Harbour Restoration Corporation (GHRC) was to totally revamp the whole area to restore, repair and embellish this important central zone that links Floriana to the capital city Valletta – to fittingly restoring its national pride.
The works have been extensive, continual, well-studied and well-executed.
As a result of project one can say that from the Argotti Gardens, also being restored, to what is popularly known as the “Mall tal-Biskuttin”, the Tritons Fountain and Square and the entrance to Valletta has become an open zone and pedestrianised.
Interesting to note that the Square was not always a square and from a study of the Valletta fortifications one notes the zone was in fact a built-up ditch acting as part of Valletta’s defence. Its re-development began at the time of the British presence in Malta and in order to create the square some of the former structures were submerged and built upon. As a result of this project parts of the old structure were restored in three particular areas and can now be seen in the square, thus illustrating its original status.
The paving consists of hard rock stone quarried in Gozo, the same type of stone used for Valletta’s entrance and the Parliament building. It is worth mentioning that the design and surveillance of works was carried out by architects from the GHRC after consultations with Renzo Piano’s office to ensure harmony between the Tritons Pjazza, the Mall tal-Biskuttin and Valletta’s entrance.
The initial stages of the works have been completed. This included the stretch of Triq l-Assedju l-Kbir and near the Ministry for Education and works on Triq Re Edwardu and Triq Nelson. Resulting from these works public transport buses are no longer permitted around the Tritons Fountain and an alighting point for passengers has been created in parking space on one side of Biskuttin and Triq Nelson.
Works on il-Biskuttin have been completed with the laying of 830 square metres of concrete, 1,300 metres of underground pipes for water and drainage, about 600 metres of pipes for electricity cables, 1,900 metres of pipes for telecommunications purposes and 1,500 metres of pipes for the irrigation of trees and surrounding fauna. Palm and oak trees have also been planted in spaces where they were missing or had withered.
The paving for the whole of this project consists of hard rock stone from Gozo. Along the length of Il-Biskuttin, 18 hard rock stone benches have been installed and at the beginning of January the restoration of the Monument to Christ the King commenced in agreement with Heritage Malta. In the coming weeks new electricity fittings will be installed in the garden and including the whole square. Therefore and resultantly the whole stretch of zone to Valletta’s entrance will have special markings on the paving for the benefit of blind persons.
The GHRC gives special thanks to the Commission for the Rights of Persons with Disabiities (CRPD) for its great cooperation for this type of paving to be laid.
Throughout, works on Tritons Square have been ongoing. When the works reach completion 900 metres of water and drainage pipes will be laid, as well as 945 metres for electric cables, 1,000 metres of pipes for telecommunications and 635 metres of piping for irrigation. The square will also have 21 water reserves which will contain 900 cubic metres of water. In addition, 2,300 square metres of concrete will be laid under the paving and 52 oak trees will be planted for the further embellishment of the square. The square will also be laid with 9,500 square metres of hard rock stone.
Preparatory measures for the Installations of electricity systems and the installation of kiosks (a tender has been issued by the Lands Authority) as well as the Tourism Authority Information Office are expected to be completed between March and June this year.
Needless to say, a number of historic remains were found during the excavation project works, in fact about 20 findings, and of these, in collaboration with the Superintendence for Cultural Heritage it was determined which remnants will remain exposed for public appreciation while the others will be preserved. These include fortifications from the era of the Knights and the presence of the British.
Naturally, the Tritons Fountain itself has undergone extensive restoration and embellishment by a team from the Ministry for Transport, Infrastructure and Projects.
When the whole of the project will have been completed, excluding the expense for the restoration of the fountain, expenditure is expected to reach in the region of €8.5 million excluding VAT, all originating from local funds.
Over and above all this Tritons and Castille Squares have undergone total embellishment in time for the inauguration of Valletta 18 as a result of extensive planning and execution of works by the Grand Harbour Restoration Corporation under my Chairmanship, works that have been completed over a short span of time and works that had long been mooted but never resulted.