A state-of-the-art music and cultural facility for Saint-Etienne, the Zenith will be the 
first such cultural venue to be built in the Rhone-Alpes region of central southern 
France. Won as the result of an international competition the project has two aims: 
to be a catalyst for the major cultural and regeneration initiatives being planned for 
this formerly industrial city; and to challenge sister city Lyon’s historical monopoly 
on staging regional arts events, putting Saint-Etienne Métropole firmly on the 
cultural map.  
The building’s distinctive cantilevered roof structure was developed in response to 
aerodynamic studies. It is designed to act as a wind scoop to channel and intensify 
the flow of air through the building and reduce energy use. Cold air currents 
through the auditorium at night time are harnessed, utilising the exposed concrete 
finishes in the auditorium as a radiant cooling surface, thereby reducing energy 
consumption. This system is fully reversible to take advantage of prevailing winds 
from both northerly and southerly directions. Additionally, the deep overhang of the 
roof canopy ensures that the glazed foyer is shaded from direct sunlight.  
Access to the concert hall is via a broad ramped podium incorporating artists’ and 
backstage facilities that bridges the busy Rue Scheurer Kestner and allows 
audience members to enter and exit quickly and efficiently. A glazed foyer 
organises internal circulation and provides access to all floors and visitor amenities. 
The auditorium is designed to be highly flexible and can be configured for 
audiences ranging from 1,100 to 7,200 people. Backstage facilities include 
changing and production spaces, staff refectories and delivery areas; there is also a 
VIP reception suite. A comprehensive landscape strategy links the Zenith to 1,200 
car parking spaces and to a proposed landscaped pedestrian network leading to 
other leisure and cultural facilities and existing public transport connections. 
description by architects


22 photos and 6 drawings

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