France’s New Home of Rugby is Much More Than A Stadium – Richard Breslin & Ben Vickery

By iSportconnect | March 12, 2013

Last month the French Rugby Federation (FFR) voted to retain the services of architects Populous and Ateliers 2/3/4, along with Egis engineers, for the design of the Grand Stade FFR . Project leader from Populous, Ben Vickery explains the new stadium will have a retractable roof and pitch to provide flexibility not only for sport but so the stadium can become a cultural catalyst for the district of Essone, in the South-East of Paris.

The vision of the FFR was for a venue that is much more than a stadium. The design has followed this creating an  82,000-capacity venue that will become the ‘national stadium of rugby’, hosting all  French rugby home matches; but it will  also accommodate conventions, shows and a broad range of other sporting events because of its multi-purpose design.

The retractable pitch will provide the best quality pitch amongst all the major rugby stadiums in the world.  The grassed area will remain outdoors to the south of the stadium, only to be brought inside when needed for games.   When the pitch is retracted it will reveal a concrete slab designed to accommodate a large range of other activities.  When the retractable roof is closed, it will deliver an incredibly intense atmosphere and it will ensure matches can be played whatever the weather, creating the largest roofed entertainment venue in Europe.

The stadium will have seating tiers that are the closest ever to the field of play, and the steepest of any stadium of this capacity built to date.  Closeness to the pitch and optimum sightlines for everyone have driven the design of the tiers in order to create the atmosphere that will deliver to every spectator an unforgettable experience.

GrandeStadeFFRThe general admission concourses – designed like the arcades around a village square – provide a direct view of the field of play.  Supporters can circulate easily from their seats to the different eating and drinking areas, while remaining in the atmosphere of the arena.  The screens above the concessions and in the bodegas will allow spectators to continue to follow the action whilst eating and drinking in convivial surroundings.

The four corners of the upper concourse are animated by large platforms open to the seating bowl –the Plazas des Bandas- where the spectators’ brass bands, traditional to French rugby, will be able to play.  The VIP lounges on several levels, the hospitality boxes, as well as the Players’ Entrance Lounge will constitute a varied offer of high-quality spaces completely open to the field of play via large glazed walls.

These spaces are furnished with spacious bars and numerous screens to share in the spirit of conviviality so central to rugby and the FFR’s Grande Stade.

The architecture of the stadium echoes a fortified town delivering both hospitality and protection, with white mineral walls echoing the quarries in Baux de Provence.  Within this protective venue, the Plazas des Bandas, the general admission arcades, the multi-level lounges, the corner suites and the presidential box will create a variety of unique spaces to capture all the traditions and fervors of  the French rugby fans.

The FFR Grand Stade has been designed with renewable energy in mind: it has a small carbon footprint and sustainable architectural elements, supporting the efforts of the local authorities to protect the environment.

The site is on the former race course of Ris-Orangis, part of the district of Evry, in the Ile de France  .  The Agglomeration of Evry is a strong supporter of the scheme and has launched a competition to select a design team for the masterplan of the site which will include other developments to complement the stadium.

The Grande Stade is intended to contribute to writing the future of the Federation Francaise de Rugby and of French Rugby.  There will be between up to 20 major events a year, including eight games of the French national rugby team plus the final of the TOP 14.   The FFR will be launching a debenture scheme, not as common an arrangement in France as it is over the Channel and across the Atlantic, so that fans will be able to guarantee their seat at the events for a period of several years.  You can receive regular updates about the stadium and information about the debenture scheme when it is launched by supporting the stadium at

Richard Breslin Cropped 2

Richard is a Senior Principal at Populous and is part of the management team of the Brisbane office. Richard is responsible for all of the firm’s projects in New Zealand and Australia.

In 1997, Richard commenced work with the team on the design of Stadium Australia (now ANZ Stadium), the main venue for the Sydney 2000 Olympic and Paralympic Games. At this time, he also worked on the event overlay for the Games, reviewing initial designs for Homebush Olympic Park.

Following the successful delivery of the 2000 Summer Games, Richard worked on the design of the 90,000 seat Wembley Stadium, before leading the design team for two stadia constructed in Portugal (Estadio da Luz in Lisbon and Estadio Algarve in Faro) in preparation for the UEFA Euro 2004 soccer competition.

In 2006, he was Project Leader for the design of the Soccer CIty Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa, for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. He was also appointed project leader for Populous’ successful master plan for the London 2012 Olympic Park.

In 2007, Richard emigrated to New Zealand, where he led the teams on the design of the 60,000 seat Eden Park redevelopment in Auckland and the 30,000 seat Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin, the first fully covered fixed roof stadium with a natural grass pitch. Both were venues for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Richard is also leading the design of the Claudelands Event Centre – a new combined arena, exhibition and conference centre in Hamilton, New Zealand.

Richard Breslin’s  isportconnect-profile-widget


benvickeryBen Vickery is a Senior Principal at Populous. His most recent project was managing the team designing the temporary installation for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympics Games. Covering the design of the overlay at over 100 venues. Th is project included innovative ideas of how to design venues for the Olympics.

From 1996 to 1998 Ben lived in Sydney, Australia, were he led a team of architects and designers on ANZ Stadium, the main venue for the Sydney 2000 Olympic and Paralympic Games. He also assisted in the development of the sustainable aspects of the stadium, which included some innovative low-energy technology. 

From 1998 to 2007 Ben was project director in charge of the redevelopment of Wembley Stadium, guiding it through from initial briefi ng to completion on site. This 90,000 seat state-of-the-art stadium is a striking building incorporating many new design solutions. 

Ben then led the team designing Aviva Stadium in Dublin (previously known as Lansdowne Road) – Ireland’s new 50,000 seat venue for international Rugby and Football matches and concerts. This is a truly site-responsive stadium and a major new landmark in the city.

Ben Vickery’s isportconnect-profile-widget

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