The “move” of the city and the moral dilemmas in the protection of ancient heritage: τhe case of Knossos
This paper proposes the urgent reconsideration of Knossos and its archaeological protection in view of the pressures exerted on it by modern building activity on the one hand, and its global importance on the other. This reconsideration necessitates an interdisciplinary approach, combining archaeology, restoration, art history, literature, urban planning, architecture, aesthetic theory, as well as psychoanalysis. Knossos, lying 5 km to the south of Crete’s largest city, Heraklion, is not simply the capital of Minoan Crete, but also a source of inspiration to major artists, writers and cultural movements, including, among others, Picasso, Masson, Kazantzakis, Highsmith, Le Corbusier, plus the surrealists. The urban expansion of Heraklion is mainly due to micro-scalar, spontaneous and opportunistic urban activity leading to the approximately concentric move of the city from the northern shore to the south, which urbanized the immediate environment of Knossos, subsequently excluded from the prestigious UNESCO list of World Heritage monuments. Spontaneous building activity in Heraklion has raised solid areas of “irrational” morphology in the historic center and “regular” architectural volumes on irregular streets in its periphery, both bespeaking the pursuit of maximized land profit and indifference to the urban image. This, however, contrasts with the grandiose image of the city, particularly during the latter part of Venetian rule (1211-1669). The paper contrasts issues of local identity, economy and interests with the moral obligation towards a monumental site of global importance which can only be fulfilled through the optimum protection of Knossos’ material and symbolic authenticity.