everything but the roof
The Athens Epidaurus Festival is Greece’s leading cultural organisation and one of the oldest continuously running festivals in Europe, spanning some 67 years of activity. Up until 2005, the Festival had been held exclusively at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus and the Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus.
In the summer of 2006, five new theatre stages were launched at the Peiraios 260 industrial venue (a former mass production furniture factory) which has since emerged as an important springboard for contemporary performance and an essential point of reference and gathering to theatre audience.
Situated on the main road connecting the “city” (Athens) and the “port” (Piraeus) and amongst various industrial buildings and warehouses, Peiraios 260 for the past sixteen years was established not only as a place to watch but, more essentially, a place to be, socialise and coexist transcending class, provenance and status.
In March 2020 due to the Covid pandemic all theatre spaces in Greece closed down indefinitely by law. The same summer performances were only allowed in open-air spaces for a brief period. As a result, Peiraios 260 and its industrial indoor (and air conditioned) spaces remained silent, giving yet another blow to the concept of social gathering.
With the exception of October 2020 -when indoor performance spaces were allowed to operate- all indoor spaces remained closed till June 2021. And again, for the summer 2021 only open-air spaces were allowed to perform.
The prospect of Peiraios 260 and its indoor spaces remaining inactive for a second summer in a row was out of the question. A “solution” had to be found…
After a whole period of continuous lockdowns and restrictions, the need for assembly and non-intermediated socialising was bigger than ever. Peiraios 260 had to be re-invented as a site for physical gatherings. The solution was simpler than one could imagine: Two of the performance spaces were to be adapted to what would qualify them as open-air, thus obtaining permission to function.
And what would that be?
Astonishingly enough, it was their roofs that qualified them as indoor. Once there is no roof, a space can be considered as open air, especially in this unique Covid related situation where the main issue was the free flow of fresh air for the audience.
Two spaces were selected, a large one (Space Δ/D) where creating a retractable open-roof system ensured natural air-ventilation and a smaller one (Space E) where taking off the roof panels above the audience converted it permanently to open-air. At the same time, the stage areas and their technical support remained roofed, thus retaining the stage equipment intact and protected and allowing performances designed for indoor spaces to be shown.
In June 2021, this core venue for Athens Epidaurus Festival became alive once again. A vast program that spanned from June to September and practically included many of 2020’s cancelled projects allowed Athenians to gather and socialise in a much-needed physical way, giving back to the city one of its most important cultural hubs proving that every problem has its solution.