In April the Greek government unveiled interventions that had been made to the Acropolis which horrified much of the Greek community and the world. Initially it had been announced that the Onassis Foundation would be sponsoring new lights for the UNESCO protected world heritage site. However, emerging from lockdown in the spring of 2021, one was made aware that far more had been happening over lockdown on the Acropolis hill asides the installation of new lights. What was unveiled was truly shocking.
It included some unfathomably jarring images of “building works”: builders in front of the Erechtheion laying down what appeared to be concrete or even tarmac on the limescale rock of the Acropolis which is itself, a world heritage site. This image can be seen in the following Guardian article: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jun/10/acropolis-now-greeks-outraged-at-concreting-of-ancient-site
This has been the hardest blog post I have ever had to write as I am so disgusted by what the Greek government and the Onassis Foundation have done. Personally, I have chosen to prioritise my mental wellbeing and to remember the site as it once was, which although not perfect, and not void of concrete interventions; was indeed a completely different story to the one at hand. A friend of mine visited the site and took the photographs in this blog on my behalf. Essentially a grotesque series of badly built, grey, concrete roads, with linear, geometric, angular edges and bizarre 'gaps' were built all over the site, caking her in an unprecedented amount of concrete never seen before, disrupting the aesthetic of the site on so many levels, particularly if we judge our visual criteria in terms of balance:
Chromatically: the amount of grey has created a deadened, desert like feel for the site, it is not a colour found anywhere else on the site either in nature or in any of the antiquities.
In terms of the dominance of natural Vs manmade: the concrete has blasted out any natural rock, or vegetation in its path (a raised wooden walkway for example would have still allowed the stone to ‘breathe’ and vegetation to grow).
Ancient Vs contemporary (which are normally temporary interventions, or easily removable): This is now imbalanced to the point where I have heard tourists commenting on it saying things like “you definitely don’t feel as though you’re stepping into ancient Greece.”
Materials used: The amount of concrete is now an imbalance against the only ancient material used - the marble of the temples.
The Guardian article also contains a map of future planned concrete roads intended to be built. There is also talk of a staircase being built. I have tried to engage with other activists on the matter, but we need to have a more structured strategy and intervene to stop any further state-vandalism from occurring. I am now boycotting the Onassis Foundation and will never set foot in their theatre again, or until the interventions are removed.
What on earth is that square?
Personally, I discovered what had happened when on one of my first outings after lockdown on the 18th of April 2021, I visited archaeological sites in and around Plaka, as it was International Monuments' Day which meant all archaeological sites could be visited for free. As I strolled through the site I noticed an unusually large scaffold on the Acropolis, in a position I never normally see scaffolding – on the rock itself. I was told that this was not a scaffold, that it was a permanent, new lift, that had been unveiled together with the concrete roads. I was horrified. So even for those of us who wish to avoid the trauma of seeing what has been done on the top of the site, we cannot avoid the trauma of seeing how the skyline of the Acropolis, and indeed Athens, has now been butchered and defaced. There are no words for how jarring that lift is. I used to always want a seat in a roof top café in Plaka with a view of the Acropolis. Now I avoid such a seat as I find it too upsetting. I don’t want to look at her with this shiny steel scaffold like lift cutting through the centre of the matt, natural rock. It is horrendous.
The lunatic who orchestrated this all – a man called Korres has said that if desired, all the concrete can be removed in a day. I therefore openly challenge him to demonstrate the removal of just a small, random section in one hour. I guarantee it will not be a “simple lift” removal solution. These roads are stuck down, removing them will not only be a nightmare to do and immensely laborious but will damage the ancient site. In the images my friend has taken I can see no sign of a “membrane”, I don’t believe there is a “membrane”.
The above image and its two detail images that follow literally show the concrete in section and up to its edge. Where on earth is this supposed "membrane"? It is supposed to exist between the 2 making it very easy to remove the concrete.
The other thing that becomes crystal clear from the above images is that we are dealing with a road and not slabs. The lines visible from above are superficial score lines, clearly added to try and make a "we're really made of slabs" bluff. This is a road, the lines do not cut all the way down, they didn't even have the brains to score the sides which would have made it harder to tell.
What in God's name is that? In memory of the old concrete? How daft.