Concrete and asphalt on the Acropolis of Athens. Is accessibility right or is history killing?

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The Greek ministry of culture had been working on it for some time, but the world has only really seen it in recent weeks, with the reopening of tourism. There is a new way to climb the Acropolis, the hill which is the heart of Athens, and which preserves the Parthenon and other buildings from the classical era. To improve accessibility to the site, a new road was made and the controversy arose: asphalt and concrete improve accessibility, but do they respect the monuments?

Over the centuries the Partenone it was a church and even a gunpowder warehouse.

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So the Ottomans used it to repel the Venetian siege in the seventeenth century. Its marbles have been brought up to British Museum in London, with a controversy that has been going on for at least two centuries.

Now the indignation for the new road is added. “It’s a crime against the Acropolis,” according to Despina Koutsoumba president of the Greek archaeologists. For the opposition leader Alexis Tsipras it is “an abuse of the country’s cultural heritage”.

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I restoration work on the Acropolis, around 2,500-year-old monuments, cost 1.5 billion and brought a road, as well as handrails, railings and Braille signs for the blind who should arrive. If the latter have been well received, the route is not liked. It is a gray cast of concrete that does not appeal to those who live in Athens or even to those who study and preserve classical works.

For all it was evident the need to arrange access to the Parthenon and to make the ascent feasible also to the disabled. Even the associations have doubts about the work because the Acropolis seems to be suffocated in concrete, but with climbs still impractical for those in wheelchairs, and there is however no bathroom dedicated to people with disabilities.

Lina Mendoni, minister of culture, explained that “the roads of the archaeological site have been covered by concrete for fifty years and that deterioration had made them dangerous even for those who do not have physical problems”. The roads therefore serve and the government aims to bring even more tourists to Athens, over 3.5 million who visited the Acropolis in 2019.

Internationally renowned scholars have signed an appeal which is called Acropolis Sos to stop the works because any intervention must be conservative and not undermine the stability of the monument. For many it would have been a better idea to think of glass and wood for the walkways and the doubt of possible flooding would also have arisen since the concrete does not allow the passage of water.

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