Conservation is not always the answer

The history of any trend toward conserving urban architecture is very recent in Greece, beginning in 1932 when a law on antiquities was passed. The law was amended in 1950 to provide for the conservation, in special cases, of buildings. In 2002, a new law (No. 3028) «on the protection of antiquities and cultural heritage in general» was brought into line with the Constitution, since Greece had in the meantime signed many international treaties which the previous legislation did not include. Popular acceptance of the concept of listing buildings began to be cultivated after the end of the 1967-74 dictatorship, due to a great extent to the efforts of late culture minister Melina Mercouri. Around 1974-75, society was ready to accept a change in the mentality that had led to the transformation of Greek cities within about a decade (1957-67 in Athens, and during the dictatorship in the provinces). After the dictatorship ended, the psychological climate changed and small elite pressure groups formed, and many issues were now open to debate. Today, despite its hundreds of listed buildings, Athens is still a deeply problematic city, where issues are left pending if it means avoiding decisions. The quality of the urban environment is not judged by the number of listed buildings it has but by what is done, how and why.