Times of Malta, 24 April 2008, by Mark Micallef – The fate of PBS’s iconic Television House and Rediffusion House will be under review today as the Malta Environment and Planning Authority (Mepa) is scheduled to decide whether to have the structures demolished to be redeveloped into the broadcaster’s new headquarters and apartments.
The broadcasting landmarks, which heralded the advent of mass telecommunications, may not look like much at the moment largely because they have not been maintained properly for a while, however, they are both scheduled buildings on account of their value as examples of quality modern architecture.
Public Broadcasting Services Ltd. is applying to be able to pull them down to build new headquarters and a complex of apartments and commercial premises. The development is recommended for refusal by the authority’s own internal consulting bodies and by the Planning Directorate, which makes the technical recommendations on planning applications.
“It is important to know that the existing building… is a scheduled Grade 2 building,” the case officer notes in the very first sentence of the report, adding that, should the authority’s board members overturn the Planning Directorate’s recommendation, ministerial approval for the de-scheduling should be sought.
The Structure Plan says that permission to demolish such buildings should not “normally be given” while any alterations to the interior should be allowed only if proposed to be carried out sensitively and causing the least alterations to the character and architectural homogeneity of the building.
Other organisations have pitched in with their opinion too: “We feel that Rediffusion House especially is a fine example of Maltese 1960s architecture and, as such, there is every reason for it to be preserved as much as other outstanding buildings from earlier periods,” Astrid Vella from Flimkien Għal Ambjent Aħjar said.
The president of the Chamber of Architects, David Felice, complained that there does not seem to be much appreciation of modern architecture.
“My worry is that we start appreciating such architecture when it’s gone. The fact that we don’t have such a vast stock of good quality modern architecture to start with should make us take better care of what we have,” he said adding that he hoped there would not be a repeat of what happened with the Qala school.
Early in 2006, Mepa was bogged down in a controversy that involved the demolition of part of a school in Qala, hailed as an architectural gem.
Eventually, the authority’s audit officer investigated the matter and severely criticised the decision, later adding in an interview with The Times that there was probably political interference in the case, seeing that this was a government project.