A new horizon...

James Forryan
Monday 08 Jun 2009

Fosters completes new venue in Saint-Etienne

The result of an international design competition, the Zénith is the first purpose-built, state-of-the-artmusic venue in the Rhone-Alpes region of France. The project was conceived to raise Saint-Etienne’s profile as a regional venue for arts events and to help drive the regeneration of thisformerly industrial city.

The distinctive cantilevered roof structure was developed in response to aerodynamic studies – itacts as a wind scoop, channelling the flow of air through the building to naturally ventilate theauditorium. Cold air currents through the roof void are also harnessed, the auditorium ceiling slabperforming as a radiant cooling surface, further reducing energy consumption. This system is fullyreversible to take advantage of prevailing winds from both northerly and southerly directions.Additionally, the deep overhang of the roof canopy shades the glazed foyer.The wider energystrategy envisages the use of water from boreholes to offset mechanical cooling and anunderground thermal ‘rock store’ for the passive pre-cooling of large volumes of air.

Access to the concert hall is via a broad ramped plinth that bridges a busy road, while a glazed foyerorganises internal circulation and provides access to all floors and visitor amenities. The highlyflexible auditorium can be configured to accommodate 1,100 to 7,200 people. Backstage facilitiesinclude changing and production spaces, staff refectories and delivery areas; there is also a VIPreception suite. A comprehensive landscape strategy links Zénith to 1,200 car parking spaces and toa proposed pedestrian boulevard, which leads to existing rail transport connections.

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