The new Théâtre de Sénart is both a national stage and a major cultural centre for the region of Grand Paris Sud in Évry on the outskirts of the French capital.
Designed by chief architect of the project Atelier d’architecture Chaix & Morel et associés, an astonishing silhouette of 10,600sqm (6,400sqm footprint) that rises 29 metres in height emerges from the retail park Carré Sénart.
In plan, the building respects the square geometry of the site yet breaks out in volume through its differing heights and its diagonals. The theatre envelope adheres to the internal volumes, like a sculpted block, to give the building its identity and unity whilst revealing its constituent parts. The main forms that emerge are recognised by the space they accommodate: the large auditorium with its fly tower (29m high) alongside the simple shape of the open stage, small auditorium.
This single form unites the volumes to create a coherent and strong image within the site. The theatre possesses a morphology, at the same time complex and hierarchical with its reliefs in balance, whilst playing with the dynamism of the diagonals. This architectural device imposed itself; an independent, iconic building that serves as a new landmark, a signal within the landscape. From a distance, like a large ship in full sail, the isolated theatre silhouette punctuates the horizon.
The envelope of the building is a fundamental and emblematic element of the Théâtre-Sénart project. When seen from afar on the vast Carré Sénart plain, it needs to be given special attention. Nothing should emerge from this spectacular volume. Installed between the waterproof roofs and the external perforated skin, the technical plant and ventilation ducts remain invisible.
The envelope fabric, whose joints fold continuously in façade and roof, gives form to a monolith that suggests the volumes of the auditoriums within. The square, the structuring geometry of the Carré Sénart and its grid, has been exploited in three ways: two perforations and one stamp size. When deployed in eight configurations applied to each side of the cladding, the dispersion of the different perforation sizes projects graphic variations.
The grey pre-lacquered aluminium skin is randomly stamped and perforated with a grid of 1500x1500mm panels. Stemming from standard metal cladding techniques, this system has been adapted to the entire envelope. The size and spacing of the perforations were studied so as not to weaken the panels whilst, conversely, the stamps reinforce its rigidity. The soft, grey shade is very close to the natural anodized colour.
A pre-lacquered PVDF layer gives a reflective finish. As the indirect LED lighting system is installed under the skin, the grid of small perforations lets light pass to create a vibration. These scattered sequins give movement and vibration to the envelope to metamorphose the building at night.
Focused on an energy efficiency strategy, the Chaix & Morel sustainable development approach for the project addressed two issues: a bio climatic approach that, in priority, naturally achieves as many building functions as possible: building orientation, quality outdoor spaces, natural lighting, sun shading and natural ventilation; and an energy support systems concept that favours the use of a high performance plant – insulation and energy consumption controlled primarily by a high performance thermal envelope with external insulation.
Enhancing the sustainability, the lighting concept was a collaborative effort between French lighting design practice Atelier H. Audibert and Chaix & Morel. The exterior lighting design is delicately dynamic. The façade reveals a myriad of abstract cloud-filled skies. To create this effect, Atelier H. Audibert designed a set of dynamic LEDs between perforated double-surfaces. The massive scale of the façade is large enough to give the illusion of creating movement as that of a giant low resolution video screen. By showing faint, yet readable images for those who stop and take a moment to look, Atelier H. Audibert wished to bring a poetic vision to the new Théâtre de Sénart at night.
The idea behind this project is to transform the façade into a transparent-like structure through which a cloud-filled sky crosses. The sheer mass of this diurnal vision turns into an empty envelope welcoming the sky.
The exclusive use of Philips Color Kinetics iColor Flex LMX, flexible strands of large, high-intensity, full-colour LED nodes designed for extraordinary effects and expansive installations without the constraints of fixture size, shape, or space, make for an uncommonly simple implementable installation and very easy to maintain. Each iColor Flex LMX strand consists of 50 individually addressable LED nodes, featuring dynamic integration of power, communication, and control. The flexible form factor accommodates two- and three-dimensional configurations, while high light output affords superior long-distance viewing for architectural accent and perimeter lighting, large-scale signage, and building-covering video displays. The overall power used to create the façade lighting is 2,000 watts, equivalent to the energy consumed by just two household irons.
An extensive island of greenery of almost 500sqm that provides light and natural ventilation, the patio area is located in the centre of the complex. It serves as a transversal, light-filled lobby within this deep building. Located between the public and performer spaces, it is accessible from either the foyer or the corridor alongside the small auditorium.
Located within the Théâtre-Sénart complex, the 227sqm partitioned restaurant area that operates independently from the theatre, is extended by a large, protected outdoor terrace on sunny days. The restaurant kitchen is 97sqm in area.
Depending on the chosen configuration for each service, the restaurant accommodates up to 100 persons seated, excluding the terrace space. Both bars are integrated within the theatre foyer and on the first floor concourse to operate before and during performances.
The foyer that comprises different functional spaces (reception desk, bar area, restaurant and bookshop corner), on the south façade opens onto the parvis (the enclosed area in front of the building). Designed as an architectural promenade, this linear and fluid space is planned as a gallery, an internal street 80 metres long, about ten metres wide. Internally, rough concrete is dominant, punctuated by contemporary way finding. The space is homogeneously illuminated by recessed LED fixtures producing a subtle, delicate scheme accentuated by spotlights and natural light. The different elements of the space are highlighted with LED spotlights that provide a depth of field.