05.12.2013 Florian Maier

Multi-purpose Venue: Grand Stade de Lille Métropole

For the European Football Championships 2016, the city of Lille has built a new stadium being part of the master plan for urban development that has been run since several years. The facility provides a not-yet-seen solution for its multiple purposes and the architects have been honored by the 2013 European Steel Design Award.

Architect: Valode & Pistre + Atelier Ferret
Location: 261 Boulevard de Tournai, 59650 Villeneuve-d'Ascq, France
The site is situated in a territory straddling the municipalities of Villeneuve d'Ascq and Lezennes, approximately ten kilometres from the centre of Lille. Being the core of the development of a new city district, the stadium has to impress on a city-scale. The plot is triangular and bordered by the Boulevard de Tournai to the north and the Boulevard du Breucq to the east. The first step was to lay the stadium to the north-west of this triangle by which a large space is cleared on the other three sides of the site. The objective of this annular area is that it will become the centre of the new district which is developing around the stadium. An urban façade, flat and aligned on Boulevard de Tournai, cuts the ovoid form of the building. The façade and its concourse form a distinct entrance, provides an overview of the spectators and services to affirm the stadium's multi-purpose vocation. At night, the façade will become an illuminated interactive screen, a showcase of the stadium over the town.
Urban context
The gigantic size of a stadium lends itself very easily to monumental character, so the integration of such a huge building at the heart of a future urban development required work its scale. The height of the building was reduced to 38 m by embedding the first section of the terraces into the ground. The underground area of level 0 (pitch level) unites all the areas not accessible to the public: changing rooms, storage areas, internal service routes, technical and security premises, media rooms, etc. It frees the ground level which becomes an immense annular ambulatory, an area of transition, visually open both to the public area and the pitch.
The “entertainment box”
The architects came up with the idea of concealing an arena with 7,000 additional places under the northern half of the pitch. It consists of four telescopic platforms which can be wholly or partially deployed to be perfectly incorporated as an extension of the bottom section. The northern half of the pitch is lifted up with cylinders to a height of 6m. Then, using a rail system, it slides over the southern half of the pitch. So, all the mobile parts remain within the stadium.

This is seen in theatres, a black velvet curtain fixed on to moving beams is hoisted by cables up to the roof. It unfolds in the transverse axis of the ground, isolating the unused southern part of the stadium from the northern part which is now an arena or zenith with 30,000 seats.
External structure
Next to the buzz of popular sports facilities, the Grand Stade de Lille will also be a place with a cultural vocation. The architects’ aim was to create an understandable and memorable form, symbolic of spectators coming together for an event. Its transparent skin interacts with both daylight and artificial light.

The curvilinear profile involved complex technical and geometrical operations. It operates like a filter which the eye can more or less penetrate. The membrane is made from 32 km of hollow extruded polycarbonate tubes. They are 21 cm in diameter and are assembled by powder coated moulded aluminium parts. The spacing of the tubes in the bottom part slowly and gradually increases as the façade gets higher.
The envelope of the stadium relies on a succession of tall thin steel arches which regulate the movement of the spectators in the large ambulatory. The colors of these structures (different shades of grey) highlight the envelope tubes. The only exception being the "mega letters" of the signage, which feature the selected color code (color wheel) for the whole building. Apart from the signage, the only striking color in the stadium is that of the pitch.
Access control
Most stadiums are designed within a closed perimeter which blocks off access during and outside of matches. In this case, the architects decided to incorporate the enclosure into the façade. During or outside of matches, with or without ticket, you can walk around this building. Its aim is to create dreams and emotions. In fact, you can glimpse the pitch behind its external structure through the access points to the terraces of the lower section. In this way, the space fulfils its role as a permanent urban venue.
Emblematic design
Planning a stadium is associated with a series of essential objectives: Optimal visibility for all spectators, maximum proximity of the entertainment for everyone, great atmosphere within the stadium, and effective functionality in absolute safety. The compactness of the building is a result of consequently optimizing the curves of visibility, ensuring that the spectator is always less than 140 m from the furthest point of the field (regulations authorize 190 m). The ovoid arena is composed of a lower general public section accessible from the level of the stadium concourse, a VIP and business balcony with lounges and attached boxes – accessible from the ambulatory on level 1 – and a top general public section accessible from the ambulatory on level 2.
Retractable roof
The retractable roof is an essential element of the design of the building. It opens lengthways in two halves. Each half consists of two "stacked roofs" which are stored one on top of the other in the open position. They complete the silhouette of the building contributing to the emblematic appearance of the stadium. The four parts of the retractable roof slide over two spindle-shaped gigantic beams, overhanging the longer sides of the pitch. These highly-stylised and distinctive powerful steel beams are a tribute to the steel-making heritage of the region.

The composition of the roof has been designed to be acoustically highly effective. The average reverberation time achieved (between 2 and 3 seconds), despite the size of the building, makes it possible to perform high-quality entertainment.
Project data

Gros floor area: 74,000 m²
Seats: 7,500 – 50,000
Cost: Euro 324 million
In 2008, the team of architects won the private public partnership (PPP) competition which addressed various concerns: The stadium has to represent the development of a new district of the city of Lille. It has to serve not only soccer or other sports but has to be a totally multi-purpose venue. Despite of 50,000 seats the stadium must be compact and able to provide a convivial atmosphere. The appearance should express innovation and make the stadium a symbol of Lille’s urban community. Mobile structures like roofing and pitches as well as the external structure represent challenges in technology.
The surface of the moving stage when the four telescopic platforms are deployed is slightly higher than that of a handball court (the largest field of all indoor team sports). It can just as easily be used to play tennis, basketball, volleyball, or handball, or to organize a swimming, figure skating, gymnastics or fencing championship. In the concert configuration, the telescopic platform with its back to the curtain is not used and a stage measuring 40 x 20 m can be installed.

This major architectural innovation, unparalleled in the history of stadium and entertainment venue design, renews the possibilities for stadium usage. The Grand Stade de Lille Métropole is therefore three buildings in one: a stadium, an arena, a concert hall. In all three configurations, the proximity, essential for intimacy and a friendly atmosphere between "the spectator" and the "player", is optimal.
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