heritage park malta

project leader: architecture@damirmasek.net

architecture: www.damirmasek.net
damir masek dipl. arch. eth/sia, ronny ott dipl.-ing. architekt

engineering: www.sbp.de, schlaich bergermann und partner
rudolf bergermann dipl.-Ing. managing director, knut göppert, sandra hagenmayer

monument protection: www.id.arch.ethz.ch, Institute of Monument Protection
swiss federal institute of technology zurich, dr. konrad zehnder, dr. wolfhart pohl

3d-artists (3d-visualization): www.raphaelgort.com, raphael gort, luca tomasi

civil engineering + safety and security: www.ebp.ch, ernst basler + partner ag
peter christen, roger pfammatter

consulting locksmith: www.rrmetallbau.ch, r+r metallbau ag
joseph rochet



the temples of hagar qim and mnajdra can be viewed as the irises of a pair of eyes, which look into the culture of the two megalithic temples. the shelters are the adjustable eyelids belonging to these eyes. the orientation point and visitor center are complementary structures on many different levels. by highlighting the concealed substance of hagar qim and mnajdra, they help to provide the visitor with a deeper understanding of the temples and surrounding landscape. they prepare the visitor in different ways for a cultural journey - similar to the preparations one makes before embarking on a trip. the unconscious, spatial experience of the content of the inaccessible inner-rooms awakens and sharpens the senses for the subsequent viewing of the temples themselves. visitors can experience firsthand the source of the amorphous symbolic-language of the ancient maltese culture, while actively recognizing its inherent potential in the newly interpreted modern structures.

the orientation point represents the continuation of a typical maltese landscape consisting of stone walls and pathways, which extend onto the roof of the building.

the visitor centre illustrates the artificial reconstruction of the natural landscape.

011 eyelids
the maneuverability and functional sensibility of the shelters correspond to eyelids in every sense. they determine how the temples will look (and see) depending on the sun, rain, wind, etc... at their extreme, they can open or close themselves completely, and as an option - depending on the terrain and depth of the gearing - can potentially rotate around the z-vertical axis and lay down along the x-longitudinal axis.
all intermediate positions can be employed; from pergola-roof to the complete closure of one side due to extreme winds from the northeast or northwest while retaining the view and freedom of the sea, for example, or benefiting from a view of the landscape due to strong southerly winds.
the height of the closed shelters acts as a reference of the temples as they were in their original condition, with roofs open to the sky and walls nearly 10 m tall. when the shelters are open (eyelids pulled up), rotated around the x-longitudinal axis and placed on the ground, the shelter structure transforms itself into small wall-form, suggesting the rock walls that are typical for malta. the complete exposure of the temple site to the sea can be maintained and spatially supported in this way. for viewing purposes, the membranes of the shelter are transparent in areas near the ground and translucent throughout the rest of the shelter in order to provide protection from the sun. ventilation occurs through a number of openings near the main arch of the shelter.

012 orientation point
the continuation of the typical maltese landscape of walls and pathways onto the roof is the impression one receives from the building upon approach. the complex stimulus of the temples' inaccessible inner-layers can be perceived from below, within, and above the building. the visitor will benefit from the experience.

the continuation of the pathway occurs along an outer layer, which refers to the inner-substance between the inner, amorphous temple rooms and the outer, enclosing walls. translated, these inner-rooms will suggest the continuation of the path of life. through the juxtaposition with the outer, robust layer made of dyed concrete, the inner, finer layer will be exposed - highlighted by the transparent glass coating. the distinction between the optically hart (protection from the sun) and soft materials (layer with adjustable sun protection) had its origins in the different types of limestone, which were used for the temples. the gesture of the two ascending ramps welcomes the guests from afar. one leads visitors over a set of stairs from the upper parking area directly to the roof, where they can situate themselves. visitors do not need to purchase a ticket in order to access the roof of the building. by following the present pathway to the existing restaurant, the other ramp leads visitors inside the orientation point. by way of the second ramp, visitors who come directly to the roof can also easily reach the inside of the building, where they can purchase tickets. the parking area can also be used for other purposes. adjustments and changes of the parking area are taking place during the current terrain gradation. the building optimizes security by abutting the wall of the restaurant and also by illuminating the parking area. even during the approach and seen from below, the orientation point presents itself as an inherent expression of fractal geometry respective of infinity, which is appropriate to round forms. these activated inner-rooms bring light to the parking area, and in the central area, they transform themselves loosely into vertical, prismatic bodies of light with steel frameworks, which, together with the outer main trusses, carry the weight to the ground. inside the building, the inner-rooms are the structural elements from which visitors are informed and admitted. here the visitors can purchase their tickets. the primary structure of the interpretation area is marked by the inner-rooms, which function as transparent showcases that organize the entire space and through which one can not only learn, but also get a view of the entire parking area. in this way, the abandoned parking area can be reintegrated. on the roof, the visitor can partially sit on them in order to relax. in this manner, the structure will be endowed with an active momentum, which will no longer appear during the following visit of the temples, but allows the visitors to glimpse through the walls.

013 visitor centre
two preparatory experiences are made possible in the visitor centre; the concave-convex spatial experience, according to public and specific use and through varying experiences of the horizon, help the visitor to understand why the megalithic culture of malta thought amorphously and built: "anders als festländische völker müssen die bodenständigen insulaner maltas die alles umspannende gekrümmte horizontlinie als eine ewig währende, unveränderliche begrenzung ihres gesichtskreises erfahren haben. der Horizontbogen, der bei entsprechender wetterlage besonders von den steilküsten aus eine überwältigend monumentale wirkung entalten kann,…"cit. 1 the attempt is to draw a virtual line through the temple site and thereby release the hidden and enclosed rooms of the originally hierarchically organized temple. the visitor enters the inner temple rooms quasi from the reverse side and experiences the amorphous, opened temple inner-rooms in relation to the horizon. on the other hand, the liberation of these structures in the visitor centre, as opposed to the former, hierarchically organized temple complex, also represents a free and open society, which is welcomed in this open way at this place.

whereas the visitors are assisted from the inner-rooms at the orientation point, at the visitor centre they move freely within them. in this way, the visitors become comparably - filled with stones and sand - the negative space of the temple complex. the movement of the public takes place in a room dominated basically by convex elements, which in the Interpretation area eventually open towards the temple mnajdra. the structure allows the harmony of the pathway to glide between the excavation site as it exists, the landscape and its programmatic uses. the visitor's viewing relationship to the landscape is strongest when seen from a point where two tapered, convex borders emerge. the focal point changes with every step. the landscape appears further away. this effect of perspective was and still is used for stage-sets in order to achieve the according depth or closeness. the removal optical displacement of the landscape is in strong opposition to the spatial experience felt while entering the programmatic main rooms, as, for example, the restaurant, the exhibition rooms, the conference center. the horizon and curvature of the sea appear to get sucked-in in rooms where the borders are expanding outward. during warm temperatures this can be entirely redeemed by opening up the façade elements. by doing so, covered outer-rooms are created and the complete union of horizon experience and building can take place.

the external skin of the visitor centre joins the light of the pergolas with the wonderful view, which during harsh climate conditions call for thermal requirements, and the prevention of extreme heat during warm periods. the thermal attempt is of a thick, depending on the situation, translucent (vertical relationship) or transparent (horizontal relationship) façade double-layer. the outer, variable sun protection reflects the heat - through screens, lamellae, photovoltaic cells - and allows light to enter the building. either the natural convection currents are made possible through adjustable hatches in the base and roof areas, or the heated air layer in the in-between area of the façade double-layer can be continually blown out through rotating fans, powered by energy created by solar panels on the building. the external skin of the building changes gradually from translucent to transparent and thus supports the optical softness of the shell, while adhering to the natural landscape. the primary structure is triangular-shaped and supports the secondary structure of the façade double-layer, which is broken down into further triangular-shaped sections. these triangulations are the frames for both façade layers. the typical maltese window shop is translated into a triangular-shaped frame structure, which fits in nicely with the building's shape. on suitable surfaces, the exterior façade layer will be covered by photovoltaic elements, which cover the building's energy needs.

cit. 1"In contrast to people on the mainland, malta's native insular people must have experienced the all-encompassing, curved horizon line as an everlasting, unchanging border of their horizons. the curved horizon line, which under corresponding weather conditions and viewed from the steep coast, can have an overwhelmingly monumental effect…" von freeden, joachim (1993), malta und die baukunst seiner megalith-tempel. darmstadt: wissenschaftliche buchgesellschaft. S. 59.

as a general guiding principle we think that much of the character and atmosphere of the site is generated by its unique blend of nature and culture. any conservation effort should thus not only take into account the structural and material integrity of the monuments, but also respect their natural surroundings. our philosophy aims for minimal interference with the archaeological remains and the natural processes on site, and the creation of synergetic solutions wherever possible.

021 size and concept of the shelters
for the sake of the principle of minimal intervention the smallest option of the "eyelid-shelter-concept" for the megalithic temple remains at hagar qim and mnajdra would be the favored one. the arguments for this view are as follows below:

  1. the shelters minimize the physical impact on the archaeological structures which must be preserved as authentic as possible. reversibility and respect of integrity and character of the monuments are probably best realized with the smallest possible shelter version.
  2. the additional runoff quantities from the sheltered areas can be comparatively easily managed, e. g. merged with natural runoff down the cliff. the depth of the groundwater surface and the capillary humidity in the ground are not expected to change significantly in the sheltered area.
  3. the natural surroundings with their characteristic morphology, vegetation and naturally grown aspect can be preserved to the largest extent with minimal shelter size.
  4. one of the main positive overall aspects of the "eyelid-shelter-concept" is the multiple ways and possibilities to control the climate at the monuments within the shelters. ventilation, relative humidity, to a certain extent temperature and exposure to the natural elements (radiation, wind, and rain) can be adjusted empirically. combined with a careful monitoring program, ideal conditions can be proactively created, which actually do inhibit decay without causing unintended negative consequences. the combination of adjusting climatic conditions with the shelter and monitoring the conditions at the site offers the opportunity to incrementally approach a stable equilibrium for the monument, and to be able to react quickly if dangerous phenomena are detected.

in this context it should be remembered, that for much of the year probably climatic conditions prevail at the site, which need not be considered harmful to the monuments. after all, they have survived about 5'000 years in full exposure to malta's rough climate. the variability of the shelter allows for the targeting of those (probably few) occasions, when protection is considered necessary, while still allowing interaction with natural atmospheric agents, which might be beneficial for the monuments (e.g. allowing accumulated salt and dust to be washed off by direct rain, because these deposits may be harmful if they attract humidity by their hygroscopic properties, or inhibiting capillary rising of salts and an excessive growth of micro-organisms due to "favored" shelter conditions etc.).

022 drainage situation on the site:
interventions to the draining system must be based on a profound knowledge of the existing (natural and/or artificially modified?) draining system, its current deficiencies and the consequences for damages and risks to the structure. on this basis, objectives are clearly defined, synergetic effects with the new shelters can be planned, and conflicts can be avoided or foreseen.
all considerations regarding water drainage systems should regard the specific climatic situation in malta: during long, dry periods large quantities of airborne and autochthonous material (sand, dust, salt, and plant debris) will be preferentially deposited in gullies, sinks and all kinds of morphological depressions. from there they will be mobilized and transported suspended in the water as soon as it starts to rain, especially when rainfalls are of the torrential type common for malta.
the silting of the main reservoir could for instance be avoided or at least decreased by a flat, quasi-natural pond beforehand, were sediment can settle, aquatic plants can grow in the mud and a small biotope can develop. the clear, decanted overflow can then be guided (pumped) into the service water reservoir at the visitor centre. another critical aspect is the design of surface runoff facilities to protect the mnajdra temple area, where frequent ponding has been identified as a hazard to the structure. here our suggestion would also be to interfere with natural drainage as little as possible, i. e. to let surface runoff waters approach the temple along their natural pathways and design a capture/collection device only in the immediate vicinity of the temple. the design of a runoff system spanning the whole area of the temple is considered an unnecessary intervention with the prevailing natural conditions.
from the conservatory point of view there are no objections in collecting as much rainwater-runoff from the project area as possible and storing it as service water. however, the natural pathways of the water should be utilized as much as possible and unnecessary new collection structures avoided.

023 groundwater
according to the photographic documentation, the geological environment of the whole project area appears to be characterized by two varieties (lower coralline limestone and globigerina limestone) of a horizontally layered limestone, the first much denser and harder than the latter. while the materials themselves probably have a low permeability, water can move along a system of cracks and fissures, which seems well developed in the project area. due to the morphological situation of the temples, being situated close to the cliff dropping almost 100 m to the sea, the groundwater surface is expected to lie well (probably tens of meters) below the temples.
an interaction between groundwater and the structures, even an influence of the groundwater on ground humidity seems unlikely. ground humidity and ponding will be controlled mainly by precipitation, seepage, capillary storage and evaporation. thus a relevant impact of the shelters on the groundwater regime is very hard to imagine. thus probably only local "water-pockets" in the ground immediately below and/or near the temples might be influenced by the shelters. however, the variability of the shelters again offers a high degree of control to enhance favorable and avoid undesired consequences.

031 structural / mechanical concept of the temple shelters
the "eyelid" structure consists of following components:

  1. the main arch, a trussed steel box, spanning along the x-axis
  2. the secondary arches, smaller trussed steel boxes, there are 4 on each side of the main arch
  3. the translucent skin between the arches, forming the eyelid
  4. the mechanical equipment, which pushes, pulls, tilts and rotates the arches.

the "eyelid" will be nearly as moveable and flexible as the original. when closing the lid, the secondary arches tilt from their vertical stored position below the main arch into an inclined one, pushed outwards by pneumatic flexible membrane tubes, while the skin, also from translucent membrane, unfolds and gets stretched between the two neighboring arches. so all 4 secondary arches can be rotated around the hinges at their footings, until the first touches the ground and the lid is closed. any position in between, with only 2 or 3 arches tilted or with only one half of the lid opened, is thus possible.

cables, running parallel to the pneumatic membrane tubes, will pull the arches upwards again, when closing the lid, driven by small winches inside the main arch, while the skin membrane as well as the deflated tubes are folded. most of the time, the secondary arches are stored in a position just below the main arch with the skin folded in between them. this compact package can be removed away from the temples by tilting it around the horizontal hinges at the main arch footings - hydraulically or mechanically with a rack and pinion system - until it finally rests on the ground. an additional alternative is, to rotate the main arch - and hence the whole roof - at one footing around the vertical axis, while the other footing slides on the circular track on ground.

materials used for this extraordinary structure are conventional:

  1. all arches including their footings are constructed from normal high strength steel or aluminum and get a long-during painting protection.
  2. the skin and the tubes are made of translucent membrane, e.g. pvc-coated polyester with a lifetime of about 15 years. The bottom part shall be transparent membrane, e.g. etfe-foils.
  3. the mechanical equipment - compressors, cable winches, low friction hinges, the driving unit and turn-table at one footing and the polyamide wheel sets at the other end are all standard elements used for crane construction.
  4. concrete foundations under the main arch footings will transfer large tension and compression forces into the ground. the rocky, hard soil at surface level is well suited for high allowable pressures, whereas soil anchors will be drilled into the rock for anchorage of the tension forces. for all excavation and drilling in the rock modern vibration-free techniques, e.g. water jet cutting will be applied in order to avoid any harm to the temples.

only the unconventional combination of all these conventional components finally results in this unique structure.

032 visitor centre malta double skin facade and roof system
adouble skin facade and roof system is used to guarantee a pleasant climate inside the centre. this double skin protects the interior from heat in summer and from cold in winter. outer and inner skin together with the air between them form an insulating envelope. the plenum between the outer and the inner skin is ventilated using natural convection and the natural wind. auxiliary electric fans may be used in selected zones. renewable energy is used for air-conditioning: fresh air is pre-conditioned in an air-to-earth heat exchanger or, if soil conditions do not permit this, using sea-water. parts of the outer skin are equipped with photovoltaic panels to provide electric energy for the building, while shadowing the interior at the same time. the outer skin, made from glass, membrane or foil cushions, is transparent in the zones where an unobstructed view to the exterior is desired. all other zones are equipped with translucent material. thus thermal loads are reduced while maintaining an open and spacious atmosphere inside. additional day lighting control is accomplished by a louvered shading system.

033 structural concept of the visitors center roof
the free curved shape of the roof with spans up to 20 m calls for a shell structure. enabling the structure to act as a shell through adequate curvature results in a minimum of thickness and material (egg shell!). nevertheless this shell can be assembled of slender steel or concrete posts, which form triangles. these can be cladded with glass, translucent membranes or concrete panels, where no light is required. a second roof layer may be suspended from the triangulated grid shell.

the renewable water resources on malta are estimated at ca. 100 m³ per person per year. malta suffers under extreme water scarcity. the economical usage of water resources, as well as the use of rainwater, service water, and/or seawater is therefore a priority.

041 water requirements
water requirements for restaurant services, toilets (water conservation installations), washing, cleaning and drinking are estimated at an average of 30 liters per visitor. as a result of an estimated peak of 400 visitors per day, the daily amount of water needed is ca. 10 m³, the monthly amount is ca. 250 m³, and the yearly amount is ca. 3,000 m³.

042 water features
to properly cover the water requirements, rainwater, which falls onto rooftops and other flat areas, is available for use. however, because precipitation of ca. 600 mm per year is irregularly distributed throughout the year and because the water supply is used continually, reservoirs for collecting and storing water are planned. the preparation of seawater for consumption and use is also an option.

043 solutions

  1. rooftop water usage: the collection of an annual precipitation of 600 mm on a rooftop with an area of ca. 15,000 m² results in an annual usable water volume of ca. 5,000 m³. the estimated annual water requirements can therefore be covered by rooftop water. this water can also be used for drinking purposes once it has been filtered and purified. as a result of the dry summer months from may to august there will be a total deficit of ca. 1,000 m³. this amount can be prepared by means of reservoirs (2 tanks each 1.5 x 20 x 20 m).
  2. further rainwater as a reserve: rainwater, which falls in the area between hagar qim and mnajdra, will be collected by means of a planned walkway, thereby generating a maximum annual amount of 25,000 m³ of usable water. in contrast to rooftop water, this water must first be rid of particulate matter and other impurities by means of a many-stepped purifying system, and therefore, should only be used as a reserve for extinguishing fires or as service water only during drought periods when precipitation is scare. the development as an open reservoir of ca. 300 m³ volume allows the reference to the ancient water holes.
  3. seawater preparation as a future option: to cover a future increase in the water requirements, there exists the possibility of preparing seawater for consumption and use. after treatment and desalinization, for example by means of a membrane filtration system, water for drinking and service purposes can be produced on a continual basis.

044 installation
to simplify the piping and canalization, a combined system for both drinking water and service water is planned. for the collection of rooftop water, a sealed tank with a capacity of ca. 1000 m³ is planned. the water will then be treated by a system of sedimentation, filters, and chlorination before it is used for drinking or service purposes. in case of an expansion by means of treated seawater, both systems can be combined. rainwater, which is collected at the walkway between hagar qim and mnajdra, will be stored in an open, ca. 300 m³ reservoir and can be used as a reserve for fire extinguishing purposes (50-100 m³) and/or as service water.

051 security measures during opening hours

the whole site area within the boundary barrier is open to the public with a valid ticket. the main security measures are of an organizational kind, e.g. visual or technical control at the entrance, surveillance on the site by security personnel and by video surveillance systems at the entrance, in the visitor's center and on both temple areas while the main construction of the shelters are raised. one special case represents the misqa tanks area.in order to protect the visitors from falling into the tanks, a grid over the opening of the tanks needs to be installed. the boundary barrier consists of a natural wall built with original stones (height about 1.5 to max. 2 meters). the wall will be equipped by a microwave or infrared-based detection system (e.g. microwave or infrared-based system or hf sensor cable system) in combination with a lighting system along the wall. as an option, a second detection system consisting of a combination of infrared barrier and hf sensor cable (see figure 4) can be added. the detection system at the boundary barrier is shut down during opening hours in order to prevent false alarms engaged by careless visitors.

052 security measures during closing hours
the whole site area within the boundary barrier is closed to the public. only persons with special clearance have limited access to the historic sites. the temple areas (hagar qim [1] and mnajdra [2]) are physically protected by the shelters, which are equipped with an intrusion detection system at the exterior shell. inside the shelters a lighting and video surveillance system will be activated if an intrusion at the boundary barrier or shelter shell is detected. as an option, the detection system of the shelter shell can be complemented by a movement detection system inside the shelter hemisphere. the detection system at the boundary barrier is activated. if an intrusion is detected, the lighting in the detected sector will be switched on. all alarms will be forwarded to the control room and, after a defined time, to the local police station to engage the intervention forces. persons with special clearances will be equipped by a badge system to access the temple site area through checkpoint no. 3 during closing hours.