If you lived in a city that had one of the greatest architectural achievements of Western Civilisation in its backyard, chances are you'd want to see it. So when a ten-storey hotel opened in the upscale district of Koukaki opened last year - in the immediate vicinity of the Acropolis - residents and activists in Athens complained the building blocked the view of Unesco World Heritage site from the public.
The five-star Coco-Mat Athens BC Hotel on Falirou Street boasts a rooftop garden with a swimming pool and terrace views of the ancient hilltop site. Its website mentions that some suites offer unobstructed vistas of the Acropolis. But after months of local protests, the Central Archaeological Council (the government organisation that safeguards Greece's cultural heritage) ordered hotel owners to demolish the two top floors.
Greece's Minister of Culture, Lina Mendoni told SKAI TV that it was a "difficult" decision to make as building permission had been granted and the hotel was already in operation, but regardless the "Acropolis had to be protected," adding "when the Acropolis is offended, in essence, our culture is offended."
High-rise buildings are uncommon in Athens due to fears they will overshadow the ancient hilltop site. Under current legislation structures can reach heights of up to 32 metres. However, planning laws are now being reassessed. The Guardian reports that the Council of State (Greece's highest court) last month issued a new ruling which states that future buildings in the area must be 21 metres (68 ft) or less to protect the views. The ruling comes after the council revoked planning permission for an even larger hotel due to be built in Makriyianni, the neighbourhood directly south of the Acropolis.
Meanwhile, with Greece under lockdown since 13 March, renovation work has begun on the archaeological site to make it more accessible. Visitor lifts have been installed, as well as lighting on the hill. Parts of the scaffolding that were obstructing views of the Parthenon have also been removed.