CULTURE

Putting an end to the Aegean devastation

Illegal building in the Aegean threatens the historical identity, economic development and landscape of every island. It is clearly a political problem, as Nikos Sifounakis, the minister for the Aegean, has acknowledged. The devastation of architectural harmony on Aegean islands is an issue Greece must tackle, if it is to save what remains, even at the last minute, prevent further damage and lay some kind of foundation for future restoration of the landscape. This is the objective of the ministry’s latest initiative, the foundation six months ago of the Council for Town Planning, Settlement and the Environment (SHOP). This institution, now in the process of completion, will endeavor to promote (and impose) a new rationale for approval of architectural plans for each new construction. Local council staffed by experts will supersede the currently all-powerful Architectural Monitoring Committees, rein in corruption and, in the long term, protect the culture of the Aegean. At a September 17 meeting with SHOP representatives, Sifounakis stated: The building frenzy could bring about the destruction of the islands. As it cannot be halted, at least let it be less of an affront to the environment and history. Some months ago, when SHOP was introduced, the minister pointed out the link between aesthetic damage and the economic consequences for the islands if their architectural and ecological environment continued to deteriorate. Last week he commented: Greece once had the most beautiful settlements, but we destroyed them. By contrast, other Mediterranean countries – and not just Italy, France and Spain, but the Arab countries too – have laid emphasis on their traditional settlements. Sifounakis said the State, by remaining an apathetic observer, was directly responsible for what he described as the unacceptable manner in which the islands have been been built up in recent years. Local SHOP representatives have the task of reversing this state of affairs, and the minister urged them not to yield to pressure or to make compromises in putting stop to the ugliness. In partnership with the private bank Citigroup, Sotheby’s has organized a traveling exhibition of highlights from the Greek sale. Today and tomorrow, the public has a chance to view a number of the works which will go under the hammer in October.