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Archaeological Council Limits Building Heights Around Acropolis

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(Photo by Eurokinissi/ Yiorgos Kontarinis)

ATHENS - Greece’s zealous Central Archaeological Council (KAS), which has stopped major construction projects but let buildings be erected blocking the view of the Acropolis and Parthenon, has reversed itself and will set limits now.

The country’s top advisory body on the protection of antiquities unanimously, approved a maximum height of 21 meters (68.89 feet) or just under five stories for a typical building, after ordering the demolition of the top two floors of a 10-story luxury hotel which had blocked views of the famed hill and monument.

The current legislation had allowed buildings up to 32 meters (105 feet) or little more than seven stories although that’s been lifted despite threatening to limit views of the Acropolis and Parthenon to mostly the residents of those buildings for commercial gain.

The proposal will allow for an additional one meter for the planting of trees on the roof and the construction of auxiliary spaces, such as the exit of the stairwell, which however cannot exceed an area of 35 square meters (114.82 square feet) said Kathimerini.

The plan also allows for buildings up to 24 meters (78.74 feet) for a section of the main part of Syngrou Avenue, one of the densest and longest commercial strips in the capital city.

These proposals will be included in a draft Presidential Decree revising the building rules in the area. The ministry has pledged to submit the relevant draft to the Council of State imminently for a preliminary review.

The luxury hotel operated by the Coco-Mat mattress company near the Acropolis that will be forced to raze the top two floors was seen as a landmark environmental decision after KAS had let it be built.

In close proximity to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the 93-room hotel had been fiercely opposed by residents as soon as construction began and was allowed to continue until it was done and then the demolition order issued but not yet done.

It has been open for nearly a year and has a lounge, spa, and rooftop garden complete with a swimming pool and private views of the Acropolis for its guests only, blocking out other residents in smaller structures.

A number of guest rooms in the Elastic Architects-designed property also offer unobstructed views of the ancient hilltop site, said The Architects newspaper, which noted a report in The Guardian about the demolition order.

“It was a very brave decision,” said Athens Mayor Kostas Bakoyannis. “The Acropolis is our heart and our soul, an essential part of our cultural heritage,” he said. “It’s very important that everyone can enjoy it,” he said.

A new, even taller hotel which had been previously approved and was in the works near the Acropolis has also since had its building permissions revoked by Greece’s highest court, the Council of State, preventing for now the world historic site from being ringed by view-blocking luxury hotels.