Nothing can prepare the casual passer-by for what lies beyond the heavy sliding gate on Pireos Street: the stone buildings that housed the Sanitas factory a few years ago. It is now being transformed into an original, alternative drama academy, the Athens School – a personal project of Greek actress Irene Pappas – based on architectural designs by Manos Perrakis and Costas Ploumakis. The school’s scattered, heterogeneous buildings and the magnolias in the yard nevertheless give the image of a hermetically sealed world, more monastery than drama school. Irene Pappas recently showed ministers, colleagues and friends around the complex, which at times still resembles a factory and at other times a drama school. The official opening will take place before 2004. «We need money to finish off the work,» the actress told the press – throwing down the gauntlet to Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos, who was present but steered clear of comment. Realizing a dream «When it opens, I want everything to be ready: the car park, the restaurant, the access roads,» Pappas continued. «I want to perform the great drama works here, because we actors have wound up as mere entertainers,» she added. Together with open-air theaters being built – also to designs by Greek architects – in Valencia and in Rome (by the School of Rome), the Athens School forms part of a drama education and research network that was first envisaged by the Greek actress. The architectural design foresees the refurbishment of three units round the central yard, which are linked together by spaces with many uses: two classrooms, a dance hall, a cinema with 320 seats, set design workshops, and exhibition areas. The complex will be served by a central refreshment area that will include a restaurant, cafe-bar, canteen and information center all rolled into one. Central stage The only building in the complex which has been finished is the central stage of the school, a covered amphitheater in the form of a semicircle that can seat 500 people. With a maximum width of 25 meters and a depth of 17 meters, the stage can host the most ambitious productions. The second building at the center of the complex is dominated by a tower, 14 meters high, which is destined to become a hall of Byzantine music. The tower is surrounded by two wings: The one on the right is set aside for an experimental theater with a 120-seat capacity, while the one to the left will be an exhibition hall. The western part of the complex will house the administrative offices and a chapel. In the southern part of the area, a space is being freed up that will serve students; among others, it will contain a swimming pool and an open-air theater.