Reconstruction of the Parthenon
The Parthenon is a temple that was constructed in honor of the goddess Athena in ancient Greece. It is located on a rocky hill in Athens called the acropolis. The original temple was constructed about two thousand five hundred years ago. Its construction commenced in 447 BC when the Athenians were at the peak of their powers and was complete by 438 BC. However, the decorations continued until around 432 BC. The Parthenon is considered the most historically significant structures in the world. The artifacts that were used for its decorations are also considered the high point of Greek art. In addition, it is an enduring cultural symbol of the Athenian civilization, one of the most significant civilizations in the development of humankind. Over the years, the Parthenon has been used for a host of different functions. For example, it was initially a temple in honor of Athena. Later, it was used as a military ammunition center, a church, a mosque during the Ottoman inhibition and a museum. During its use as an ammunition centre, it severely damaged by a stray cannon. This also resulted in the loss of the art used in its decoration as well as posing the greatest threat to the Parthenon. Though time and elements of nature have played a part in the declining condition of the Parthenon, humanity has played the greatest role. Due to this damage, the Greece ministry of culture commissioned reconstruction of the building to increase its longevity as well as safety of visitors. This paper will show that the reconstruction is counterproductive because it reduces the cultural and aesthetic significance of the structure.
The reconstruction of the Parthenon temple were commissioned in 1970 after an earlier attempt in 1890 yielded negative results and left the building in need of repair. The marbles used are obtained from the same quarry where the original building materials were mined, and there are attempts to make the exact same measurements used in the original structure.
The main point of reconstruction is to build a structure that completely resembles the old structure. For example, after the white house was destroyed, it was rebuilt in exactly the same mould as the older building because of its cultural significance. The builders set out to replicate the exact structure of the original structure in such a manner that even the fists president would recognize it. This is the same principle in the reconstruction of the Parthenon.
There is no doubt that the original structure can never be reconstructed. For example, the decorations used in the construction are long gone, and their historical value can never be recovered. However, on rebuilding the structure, people will be able to see what is ultimately the sign of human development for many years to come. However, this is not to say that the value of the building will remain the same. For example, there are buildings in Greece more beautiful than the Parthenon. The real value of the building lies in its historical and cultural significance to humanity. The value is in the original construction and the advancements of the human race in the intervening years. For example, building the same building in a different location would be significantly insignificant because it is not the building it’s self that is valuable, it is its significance to culture and history.
This can be interpreted in two ways; the first is that if the case for resemblance implies that people will be able to see the structure for many years and be none the wiser. The other view is that that the integrity of the building will be forever compromised, and the experience of viewing it will never be the same because its significance will be lost forever.
Take the example of paintings that were destroyed by the German serial art vandal Hans-Joachim Bohlmann. They were later repaired in such a way that the degree of the damage would not be discerned. However, the value of these paintings dropped after the vandal because collectors no longer viewed them with the same esteem. There is likelihood that this will be the case with the Parthenon. Its value in the eyes of historians will reduce after the renovations.
Human destruction played the biggest role in the destruction of the Parthenon to the point where it needed a reconstruction. Just like vandalism in the paintings. This implies that the rebuilding is completely justified. However, other factors play a role in the reconstruction. The Greece ministry is not looking to rebuild the structure exactly the way it was. There are plans to build better-located support structures to increase the longevity and stability of the building. This implies that unlike the paintings, the new building will not be a copy of the original the Parthenon. Evaluating this point is complicated by the fact that the building has lasted over two thousand five hundred years. Many modern building never last that long, though this may be attributed to the fact that they are not intended to last more than a few centuries. Due to the role of human aspects, such as pollution and the explosion, the decline rate of the building accelerated in recent years, thus necessitating construction of a stronger structure. However, this renovation will reduce the iconic buildings architectural aspects. This architecture was unmatched by any other civilization at construction. Therefore, it also enjoys historical significance and contributes to the high esteem of the ancient Romans. Improving it would imply that the architecture w as not as good. This is true, but it reduces the significance of ancient Greek architecture.
An example of the counterproductive nature of reconstruction is provided by the first reconstruction of the Parthenon. It is important to detail the history of the destruction of the Parthenon before detailing the reconstruction efforts. During the Ottoman conquest, the Parthenon was used as a mosque. When the Venetians tried to invade Greece, the Ottomans believed that they would not be attacked in the Parthenon because if it’s Christian heritage. Therefore, they used it as a shelter for women and children as well as a hiding place. They were wrong. The venetians used cannon fire against the building and destroyed a huge part of it. The result and the earlier removal of Christian antiques led to the belief that the Parthenon needed renovation.
Nikolaos Balanos was given authority by the Greek government to spearhead the renovations. However, modern preservationists believe that the restoration effort did more harm than good. The marbles were mismatched and iron clamps were used to hold the original pieces in place. This was in an attempt to retain as much integrity of the older building as possible. However, these clamps were exposed to corrosion and with time, they strained the already strained building materials and thus resulted to more compromise.
In contemporary times, the art of construction has evolved to a level where it enjoys unmatched prevision and accuracy. The reconstruction efforts that commenced in 1970 were driven by modern technology and the need to return the structure to its original shape. For this to happen, there is need for a few removal and additions to add the strength of the building, for example, the renovations of 1890 need to be completely removed and replaced. However, taking note of changing times and changing opinions, there is no guarantee that the current renovation will escape future scrutiny and criticism. Due to the constantly advancing nature of human knowledge, the future may see present methods as crude, and thus make the same claims about the building that are being made now. It is also worth noting that the original construction of the building is not under scrutiny. Nobody is scrutinizing the original structure or architectural integrity of the work. After all, it has lasted over two millennia. The renovations are under scrutiny because they compromised the integrity of the building in all aspects. The irony is that the same efforts, though admittedly more advanced and better coordinated, are being made again.
The above point illustrates the danger in reconstructing the building, though architecture may have improved with time. However, there are merits to the construction efforts. For example, if the building were to be left in the same condition, it would eventually weather and collapse, thus destroying the proud Greek history. This is by no means a desirable end because Greek history influenced modern civilization more than any other did.
However, at this point, it is worth contemplating the value of the building. What does is represent to humanity? Why is it so important that the building remains standing? The answers to this question may provide an insight into the need to reconfigure the building. For starters, the real value is in its historical and cultural significance that are attached to ancient Athens civilization. The building is an icon of Athens and their gods. In addition, it is among the only remaining buildings constructed at the height of ancient civilization.
From these points, it is evident that the true value of the building is in sentimental value. Therefore, it may be safe to assume that the sentiments will remain despite the eventual demise of the building. The very purpose of the building is its representation of Greece civilization and their greatest construction. Compromising its integrity will therefore not be a solution to the problem because ultimately, though the shape, location and significance of the building will remain the same, its historical value will diminish. For example, will it be said it has stood for more than two thousand five hundred years, or will there be gaps to explain the renovations.
Tourists visit the building because of its historical significance while scholars study it due to its implications in the development of man. None of these groups are interested in the building structure, or in its current condition, they are interested in it because it is significant to their roots and origin. In this case, a renovation or reconstruction my not increase the appeal to them because they do not visit it to see its grandeur. However, a better-looking building is bound to be more attractive to these groups of people and increase the longevity of the structure. In a way, people will be able to see the structure as it was when it was build, thus increase their admiration of ancient Athenian architecture. This alone makes the effort to reconstruct the building worth the trouble because its long life will always be a demonstration of Athenian art, even if the significance and appeal of the building were to reduce.
In conclusion, the reconstruction of the Parthenon destroys its historical heritage. It is also against the fundamental values of the building and therefore compromises its sentimental value to human beings. There are ruins that could have been reconstructed but were not because they have historical value, especially in ancient Greece. However, a very good point can be raised for the need to preserve human history for the appreciation of later generations. In this case, the renovations and the attacks will be considered part of the Parthenon’s proud history.