[WATCH] Government moots 3D augmented reality reconstruction of Gozo’s Azure Window

‘International initiative’ to attract ideas on how to mark collapsed Azure Window, but government ministers say they will not attempt to rebuild arch

The picturesque Azure Window in 1981 during the filming of Clash of the Titans
The picturesque Azure Window in 1981 during the filming of Clash of the Titans

Not content with nature’s wrath, the Maltese are determined to bring back Dwejra’s Azure Window back to life.

After comments by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to launch “an international initiative” following the collapse of the Azure Window, environment minister José Herrera said the government will be welcoming any idea that can be contributed towards marking the spot where the rock formation once stood.

One of these proposals could be a digital, augmented 3D structure, which recreates a hologram of the Azure Window.

“We could leave the place as it is, recover the rocks and place them on public exhibition, use an interpretation centre to remember the formation, or install artistic installations,” Herrera said.

The minister categorically ruled out that the natural limestone arch would be rebuilt or that construction will take place on the site.

However, he said that green-friendly schemes could be introduced that will allow visitors to enjoy the memory of the Azure Window.

“There are technological ways and means that will allow people to re-experience the Window in an artificial way. We don’t exclude a hologram, but of course it must conform with the environmental laws.

(L to R) Ministers Edward Zammit Lewis, Jose Herrera, Anton Refalo and Owen Bonnici address a press conference. (Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
(L to R) Ministers Edward Zammit Lewis, Jose Herrera, Anton Refalo and Owen Bonnici address a press conference. (Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)

“We must find way and means of reaping the site’s economic benefits without damaging the environment.”

He said that the government decided to issue an international call for ideas for the site in the wake of widespread coverage of the Window’s collapse in the foreign ways.

“We realized that the Window was more important than we had imagined, as it gave a certain identity to our islands.”

He also announced that the government will issue a temporary emergency conservation order to safeguard the remaining rocks, so as to stop bounty hunters from stealing them.

Herrera, who said he was “obsessed with preserving the site in its natural habitat” was also quizzed by MaltaToday on what action will be taken against the illegally built boathouses in Dwejra.

His response was coy: “There are legal procedures to combat illegalities. Ministries don’t exist to get into the specificities of individual cases, but rather to create strong regulatory structures to combat illegalities.”

The arch, immortalised in several films as well as a Games of Thrones episode, was disintegrating for years because large pieces of rock had begun to fall from the underside of the arch. Its dangerous condition led to warning notices being placed along the cliffs to stop people walking over the top of the arch. In April 2012 a large piece of rock was dislocated and resulted in the window being made larger and more unstable, as well as a reduction in its nearly perfect oblong shape.

The arch’s collapse was a loss to Malta’s natural heritage but said did not reduce any of the importance of the Natura 2000 site that ran between San Dimitri till Xlendi.

Several studies carried out had all indicated that the collapse of the Azure Window was an unavoidable natural event. The collapse was most probably the compounded result of the process of natural erosion coupled with the strong winds hitting the islands and the related sea currents.

Geologist Peter Gatt had carried out a study at the request of the Environment Ministry in 2013 but said later that its recommendations had been largely ignored. The report had found that much of the horizontal part of the arch, around 90% in fact, had collapsed during the past 30 years. Parts of the bottom of the arch are prone to failure. Parts of the sides of the arch are also fractured and prone to collapse, even if these do not affect the stability of the Azure Window.

The geologist had recommended monthly readings of several cracks and the possible use of small bolt rocks.

San Lawrenz mayor Noel Formosa, said that much like life itself, the Azure Window has run its course. “Naturally this is a moment of sadness for me, my city, my community and all of Gozo. However, this serves as an eye opener for us. We must look to the future and preserve our natural assets, while interfering as little as possible, in order us and for the generations to come to be able to enjoy such sites,” Formosa said.