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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Zenith Europe, Strasbourg, France

Fuksas-designed music venue opens in France
The Zénith concept dates back to the early 80’s when the French Ministry of Culture recognized the need to create regional large-scale entertainment venues, responding to the growing demands of pop and rock culture. Philippe Chaix and Jean-Paul Morel were the architects behind the first Zénith in Paris, opened in 1984. Since then 14 more venues have landed all across the French nation but this one in Strasbourg is the biggest yet.

Commissioned by the city of Strasbourg in 2003 via an international competition, the eye-catching Zénith Europe is conceived by the sculptural mind of Massimiliano Fuksas, a prominent Italian architect of Lithuanian origins responsible for the Twin Towers in Vienna, numerous Armani shops amongst which the Armani Tower in Ginza, Tokyo and the more recent but yet to be completed “Cloud” Centre of Congress in Rome.

Zenith Europe is located in the growing exhibition area of Eckbolsheim, Strasbourg. Understood as a single, unifying and autonomous sculpture, it covers a surface of 16,564 sq m. The layered and rotated ellipsoid metal façade, comprised of varying inclinations, offers a dynamic character accentuated by the translucent textile membrane, which covers the steel-frame and the volume of the music hall itself.

Projections on the outer skin create playful effects and convert the façade into a huge billboard conversing with the passers-by. In daylight the building appears as a monolith of stillness but come the night, the inner experience is transmitted to the outside through the translucent skin, the whole building becoming an ever-changing light sculpture.

The impressively spacious modular music hall nonetheless manages to retain a human dimension reminiscent of circuses: the 10,000 seats are arranged in a circular pattern within a tiered structure that offers the audience flawless conditions for visibility, acoustics, comfort and safety.

Massimiliano Fuksas Architecture are responsible for various buildings throughout France and are currently working on another Zénith in Amiens. Construction of this 6,000 seats venue in the north of France is well under way: the doors of the 16th Zénith will open at the beginning of 2009.

Laura Salmi
architecture NOW

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