Manolis Korres, the architect who has long presided over the restoration of the Parthenon, said the Acropolis needs no improvement at all when he spoke to The Guardian.
“Many generations of scholars have tried to bring order to this chaos, myself included,” Mr Korres, head of the Acropolis Monuments Conservation Committee, said of the scaffolding-encased ruins.
“The issue is to safeguard what is here. In a hospital you have to take care of patients, for me the patients are stones.”
The authority on the fifth century BC site first visited the site 70 years ago, when he was a three-year-old toddler on the shoulders of an uncle who took him to visit the temples which looked so much different then.
These days, he has come under increasing criticism for his interventions – especially those conducting during lockdown – which are deemed to have gone too far. The greatest travesty, say critics, is the installation of a new cement pathway to help facilitate people with disabilities, but even disability groups in Greece have looked on his project with disbelief and dismay.
In his proposed plan, Mr Korres wishes to overhaul the Propylaia, the majestic gateway, by reinstating a Roman staircase which would broaden the entrance as it had originally been before previous erroneous intervention. Even the replacement of the older elevator which ceased to operate years ago with one which is capable of carrying two wheelchairs at a time has been criticised as being an eyesore.
Online network Avaaz features an open letter calling for pathways to be removed and changes to be cancelled.
Despoina Koutsoumba, president of the Association of Greek archaeologists told the Guardian that the Parthenon appears to have “been lowered to street level and surrounded by a cement pavement”, while Dr Tasos Tanoulas, the recently departed director of restorations at the Propylaia, has also criticised the covering of the rock’s face with concrete stating that the move would lead to “degradation of the natural landscape and a devaluation of the rock as a natural monument in its own right, as a natural fort”.
World Heritage Watch, a Berlin-based body established to ensure that prime sites are not sacrificed, featured Dr Tanoulas’ arguments regarding the alteration.
Despite criticism from academics around the world, Greece’s Culture Minister Lena Mendoni, an archaeologist, has defended the concreting and other measures.
They’ve all been approved by people whose credibility cannot be disputed,” she said during a tour of the site. “Since 2004 [when Athens hosted the Olympic Games] we’ve been talking about improving access for people with disabilities.”
She pointed to injuries which occur on the slippery limestone surface. “Many break legs. Each incident is recorded in the site’s logbooks. Whatever you do on the Acropolis ignites debate. If you don’t do anything, you’re criticised; if you do, you’re criticised,” she said.