The city of Saint-Etienne unveils its arts and sporting venue with cantilevered roof

Foster + Partners’ performance venue for Saint-Etienne, France, opened last week in a ceremony attended by Norman Foster and Johnny Hallyday.

The Zenith, Foster and Partners

The building, known as the Zénith, has an aerodynamic roof and flexible performance space that can be configured to accommodate 1,100 to 7,200 people and host a variety of productions, from music to sports events including tennis and skating.

Access to the concert hall is across a broad ramped podium that incorporates the artists’ and backstage facilities and bridges a busy road. This creates a large plaza, shaded in part by the deep overhang of the roof canopy which also shades a generous glazed foyer.

The cantilevered roof structure channels air through the building – the system is fully reversible to take advantage of winds from both directions to assist natural ventilation and cooling. At night, the cold air currents through the auditorium are harnessed, using the thermal properties of the exposed concrete finishes in the auditorium.

Norman Foster said: “The Zénith provides a flexible, state-of-the-art venue for the people of Saint-Etienne and I look forward to seeing the opening performances bring the building to life.

"Its distinctive roof is a significant part of the building’s environmental strategy as well as a powerful symbol of regeneration for the city.”