France’s New Home of Rugby is Much More Than a Stadium
Last month the French Rugby Federation (FFR) voted to retain the services of architects Populous and Ateliers 2/3/4, along with Egis engineers, for the design of the Grand Stade FFR . Project leader from Populous, Ben Vickery explains the new stadium will have a retractable roof and pitch to provide flexibility not only for sport but so the stadium can become a cultural catalyst for the district of Essone, in the South-East of Paris.
The vision of the FFR was for a venue that is much more than a stadium. The design has followed this creating an 82,000-capacity venue that will become the ‘national stadium of rugby’, hosting all French rugby home matches; but it will also accommodate conventions, shows and a broad range of other sporting events because of its multi-purpose design.
The retractable pitch will provide the best quality pitch amongst all the major rugby stadiums in the world. The grassed area will remain outdoors to the south of the stadium, only to be brought inside when needed for games. When the pitch is retracted it will reveal a concrete slab designed to accommodate a large range of other activities. When the retractable roof is closed, it will deliver an incredibly intense atmosphere and it will ensure matches can be played whatever the weather, creating the largest roofed entertainment venue in Europe.
The stadium will have seating tiers that are the closest ever to the field of play, and the steepest of any stadium of this capacity built to date. Closeness to the pitch and optimum sightlines for everyone have driven the design of the tiers in order to create the atmosphere that will deliver to every spectator an unforgettable experience.
The general admission concourses – designed like the arcades around a village square – provide a direct view of the field of play. Supporters can circulate easily from their seats to the different eating and drinking areas, while remaining in the atmosphere of the arena. The screens above the concessions and in the bodegas will allow spectators to continue to follow the action whilst eating and drinking in convivial surroundings.
The four corners of the upper concourse are animated by large platforms open to the seating bowl –the Plazas des Bandas- where the spectators’ brass bands, traditional to French rugby, will be able to play. The VIP lounges on several levels, the hospitality boxes, as well as the Players’ Entrance Lounge will constitute a varied offer of high-quality spaces completely open to the field of play via large glazed walls.
These spaces are furnished with spacious bars and numerous screens to share in the spirit of conviviality so central to rugby and the FFR’s Grande Stade.
The architecture of the stadium echoes a fortified town delivering both hospitality and protection, with white mineral walls echoing the quarries in Baux de Provence. Within this protective venue, the Plazas des Bandas, the general admission arcades, the multi-level lounges, the corner suites and the presidential box will create a variety of unique spaces to capture all the traditions and fervors of the French rugby fans.
The FFR Grand Stade has been designed with renewable energy in mind: it has a small carbon footprint and sustainable architectural elements, supporting the efforts of the local authorities to protect the environment.
The site is on the former race course of Ris-Orangis, part of the district of Evry, in the Ile de France . The Agglomeration of Evry is a strong supporter of the scheme and has launched a competition to select a design team for the masterplan of the site which will include other developments to complement the stadium.
The Grande Stade is intended to contribute to writing the future of the Federation Francaise de Rugby and of French Rugby. There will be between up to 20 major events a year, including eight games of the French national rugby team plus the final of the TOP 14. The FFR will be launching a debenture scheme, not as common an arrangement in France as it is over the Channel and across the Atlantic, so that fans will be able to guarantee their seat at the events for a period of several years. You can receive regular updates about the stadium and information about the debenture scheme when it is launched by supporting the stadium at http://grandstaderugby.fr/supporteurs/je-soutiens/.