Sound-amplifying stadium by Populous provides Lyon venue for Euro 2016
The firm behind the London Olympic stadium has built a new home for French football team Olympique Lyonnais, featuring an enormous fabric roof that amplifies the noise of the fans (+ slideshow).
The Parc Olympique Lyonnais – nicknamed Stade des Lumières – was completed by Populous' London office in time for France's hosting of the 2016 European Championships, for which it is hosting six games.
The global architecture firm has been involved in a number of other high-profile projects including event planning for many of the recent NFL Superbowls and Olympic Games.
From a distance the structure looks almost turtle-like, due to its oversized roof. The 53,700-square-metre fabric cover extends down and out over the edge of the building like a shell.
Around the outside of the four-level venue, the additional roof area creates an overhang designed to shelter crowds before and after the game.
Inside the stadium, the roof extends straight out over the space, high above almost 60,000 seats.
Lyon supporters are renowned for their chanting, particularly call-and-reply songs that rebound between the facing stands. The openness of the bowl is designed to encourage the fans' back-and-forth whilst trapping sound inside.
Acoustic panelling behind the top row of seating and on the underside of the fabric roof has been added to reduce sound reflection. This makes the singing clearer, while also reducing the amount of noise that bleeds out in to the surrounding area.
At ground level, gaps left in the concrete facade allow fans in to the stadium. Glimpses of the pitch in the middle are meant to draw crowds through full-height atriums towards their seats.
"All of the concourses for the general admission spectators are enormous; they're like cathedrals," said Garry Reeves, project architect for the Lyon stadium.
"If you've ever been to the upper tier at West Ham, you're hemmed in and you can't get to the toilet at half time," he told Dezeen.
"Here you've got four-storey volumes. The people are animating the space – they're the noise, they're the invigoration of it all."
On the first and second levels, glazed double-height lounges ring the outer edge of the stadium, housing fast food businesses as well as more restaurant-style venues for meals before and during matches.
Parc Olympique Lyonnais is designed to offer better amenities than many older stadiums, to reflect the changing demographic of people who attend football games.
Rising ticket prices for events like the Euros mean that fans are often wealthier and have higher expectations of service than in the past.
"The people attending these games for the most part come from quite a middle-class demographic," said Nicholas Reynolds, senior principal at Populous. "It's not like you're catering for just a certain part of the population or a certain intelligence spectrum."
"We always talk about train stations and how they've changed, with the quality of food and the quality of experience," he told Dezeen.
"These are the portals that people arrive through to football grounds, so if you provide a football ground that's worse than the train station that you’ve been through to get there, there's something wrong," he said.
Parc OL hosts matches for other sports apart from football, such as rugby, as well as concerts. The nearby business park may also use the space for events such as seminars and dinners.
Parts of the stadium are designed to be flexible so that they can adapt to these difference uses. The open-plan lounges are likely to be refitted every few years, and a whole section of stadium seating can be removed and replaced by a stage.
"The building is going to be there for 40 years, therefore it has to be able to adapt and change along its life to whatever the stadium needs to do," said Reeves.
Although fans often become very attached to their home grounds, transitioning to a new one is becoming easier as competition between teams drives up stadium design standards, added Reynolds.
Social media is also driving more interest and higher expectations when it comes to stadium design, he claimed.
"Ten years ago when you built a new stadium for a football club, the fans wouldn't really have any awareness of what was happening until they got there," said Reynolds.
"Now there's this enormous conduit of experience that happens through social media. Every time a new club opens, every time a new restaurant or a new venue opens, everybody knows about it."
Populous is involved in the design of a number of other large venues, including the new stadium for Tottenham Hotspur, the world's first football club to incorporate a sliding pitch for the NFL. They also worked on the team that masterplanned the entire Dubai Expo 2020.
The Parc Olympique Lyonnais has already hosted Belgium v Italy, Ukraine v Northern Ireland and Romania v Albania as part of the UEFA Euro 2016 competition. It will also be the venue for Hungary v Portugal tomorrow, as well as two further matches.
Photography is by the architect, unless otherwise stated.