The first match in a new stadium: A design team’s perspective

On Saturday 9th January, French Ligue 1 side Olympique Lyonnais played their first game at the new Grand Stade de Lyon, also known as the ‘Stade des Lumieres’ (the stadium of lights). The match was a great success both on and off the pitch, with a 4-1 win for the home team and a new club attendance record of 55,000.

Now that the stadium has been officially opened, what do the architects behind the project think? We asked the design team to let us see their notes from the game.

The approach

Garry Reeves: Taking a taxi from the airport, we took the long sweeping bend on the Rocade Est from the south. As the stadium appeared before us, our taxi driver said, “Le grand Stade des Lumières est très impressionant” (the stadium of light is very impressive). His pride in the new landmark for Lyon was very touching.

Thomas Faye: Après plus de deux ans à arpenter tous les aspects du stade en tenue de chantier, pouvoir finalement accéder au podium en se mêlant à la foule et observer l’expression admiratrice des spectateurs procure un grand sentiment de satisfaction. Le projet est devenu bien réel et se transforme subitement en un lieu de vie qui s’anime et s’active de toute part.

Grand Stade de Lyon

The design

Nicholas Reynolds: The stadium faithfully represents the very first design sketches and concept, and really creates an iconic image in the landscape. It has a really unique visual identity.

Tim Reeves: For many years now, every day I have been looking at the drawings and models, then during construction inspecting the glass, steel and concrete of this new stadium. The match was the first time that I was able to watch people enjoying the spaces, rather than just observing the spaces themselves.

The fans’ initial reaction

GR: The atmosphere, excitement and anticipation could all be felt on the podium in the lead up to the match. This was amplified by a stage playing music in the north, against a backdrop of fans streaming towards the stadium from the trams which bring fans from the city. The roof extending over the congregating fans gave the podium a more intimate feel, protecting them from the grey clouds above.

NR: From our impression on the ground, the fans were universally in awe of their new home. The scale of the building, its overhanging canopy roof and the upper concourse (balcony) all contributed to a podium full of fans who were inquisitively surveying all the features of the building. Exactly what you want to see.

Grand Stade de Lyon_Concourses2_Credit_Populous

The internal spaces

NR: The large triple and double height volumes really added to the sense of drama as you moved though both the general admission concourses and the premium spaces.

GR: It was great to see the fans circulating within the double height volumes of the concourses and feature stairs. The brightly coloured OL scarves and flags really animated the space, giving it a really ‘Lyonnais’ feel.

TH: La générosité et la simplicité des espaces, aussi bien dans les zones VIPs que les coursives grand public sont des caractéristiques architecturales propres au stade de l’OL. Ils ont permis aux 55.000 spectateurs présents samedi soir de se sentir à l’aise là où les flux sont normalement tendus. Les supporters et le club pourront au fil des matchs s’approprier ces espaces et faire de cette enceinte leur stade.

The food!

TR: It’s a cliché to say that Lyon is the gastronomic capital of France, but there is a reason for that. On Saturday, standing on the podium, underneath the giant new roof of the stadium and surrounded by the crowds, I had the best hamburger of my life and I was at a football match!

GR: I suppose with M. Paul Bocuse involved, it’s no surprise that the food is so good! The open balconies on the upper concourse also offer places for the fans to enjoy their food and drink within the stadium, while also enjoying 360 degree elevated views back to Lyon and the wider surroundings of Decines and Meyzieu. These congregation spaces worked really well with the fans, activating the façade with people and adding to the atmosphere on the podium.

The bowl and the game

NR: The seating bowl felt intimate and atmospheric during the concert, and intimidating during the football match, with the fans in the Virage Nord and Sud acting as the catalyst for the experience and immediately adopting their new home. In one evening the club showed that the stadium will be both a great football and concert venue.

GR: It was amazing to see the Virage Nord and the Virage Sud supporters bringing the stadium to life with an electric cacophony of song. It is a moment that will stay with me for a very long time. It is incredibly satisfying as an architect to see people enjoying a place you have been part of creating.

Grand Stade de Lyon

The event

NR: The post-match event featuring the light show and local performers, including 500 local school kids and a Will.I.Am set, really connected with the audience, acknowledging the local community and demonstrating the international potential of the venue.

The external design

GR: The concert and light display was an amazing finale to the opening match, as well as being mirrored outside of the stadium. The architectural lighting announced the stadium to the city, just as we hoped it would.

TH: La vision nocturne à la sortie du stade avec la mise en lumière architecturale des noyaux, oriflammes et de la toiture à fait écho de manière très intéressante à l’éclairage évènementielle de la jauge utilisée pendant le concert de Will.I.Am. Une forme de continuité entre l’aspect évènementiel et architectural laissant un souvenir inoubliable aux spectateurs.

NR: The illumination of the banners and roof looked fantastic at night. You were left with the overriding feeling that this was just the start, that the building canvas is a perfect backdrop for the club and with each game the experience of the stadium will evolve.

The club and the community

TH: La finalisation du projet du stade du Parc de l’Olympique Lyonnais, le succès de la soirée d’inauguration combinant plusieurs évènements (match de football, concert) et l’attitude enthousiaste des spectateurs sont autant de preuves que cette nouvelle enceinte sportive flexible, fonctionnelle et architecturalement unique satisfera les ambitions d’un grand club comme l’OL et sera un véritable moteur de développement pour l’est Lyonnais.

NR: The stadium has a really civic quality, and the non-symmetrical nature of the roof gives some really great contrasting approach views. I can’t wait to see the stadium feature in the build up to the Euros and European rugby finals.

TR: To finally see the stadium occupied was an amazing moment and such a privilege. As architects we often work on these projects for long durations, but they only truly come alive when they are occupied by the fans. The sheer wonder was there to see on the faces of the families and supporters as they approached the new stadium for the first time. Seeing the reaction to something we created was such a joy and a fitting culmination to all the hard work.

The stadium will host the European Rugby Champions Cup Final in May, and the UEFA Euro 2016 Finals in June and July 2016.

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