"Le Grand Stade" in Fontainebleau, France by Joly&Loiret, 2012
In less than a week the starting ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympics will be underway in London. For two weeks the world's attention will be focused on events taking place in new facilities by Zaha Hadid, Populous, and others. Plenty of attention has already been directed to the architecture of the 2012 Olympics, so I'm heading (figuratively) to France to look at another recently completed sports facility: Joly&Loiret's design of seating, facilities, and landscape for Le Grande Parquet equestrian stadium in the forests of Fontainebleau.
The architects assert that they wanted to "invent a real architecture-landscape, where boundaries between definitions blur and merge." The primary means of doing this was through a pedestrian circuit around the whole site. This public walkway has various characteristics around the site, intertwining both with horses and forest, before it arrives at the new building with tiered seating atop it. The architects actually call the top of the building a "boardwalk," as if it is literally an extension of the walkway surface.
The fusion of building with tiered seating, tiered seating with terrace, terrace with embankment, embankment with path, path with forest edge, forest edge with forest, positions the building firmly in its natural setting. -Joly&LoiretThe focus here is the building, which can be seen to be three-sided: the steps, seating, and canopy atop the building; the canted walls on the opposite side; and the inside of the building. While the realm atop the building is key to the larger idea, it's a pretty straightforward design, made up of standard lumber for the steps and seating surfaces. After ascending from the end in the top photo, people will find themselves under a generous canopy providing lots of shade. Further along, as the seats curl around the site, the wood surfaces merge with the grass above and below, linking architecture and landscape.
The other two realms of the building -- wall and interior -- make themselves apparent from above, respectively through the guardrail at the rear edge of the seating and the metal guardrails that line the entrance portals that cut perpendicular to the seating. The leaning walls on the opposite side of the building act as trellises for climbing plants, meaning the building will eventually merge with the landscape even more. Inside, the required spaces are sparse like the tiers above, but in a material palette that is lighter, maximizing the effects of natural light. Overall, wood, metal, and landscape work together in the project to create a design sensitive to its surroundings and purpose.