How a French team is testing life-size stadium technology with a DC location

If you were to build a perfect football stadium today, how much square footage would you get? And where? On Saturday, a group of French and American designers, architects and promoters known as the…

How a French team is testing life-size stadium technology with a DC location

If you were to build a perfect football stadium today, how much square footage would you get? And where?

On Saturday, a group of French and American designers, architects and promoters known as the Roundtable gathered at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., to build a stadium that for one day could function as both home to and spectator for a space- and energy-saving soccer club from the city of Le Mans, a suburb southwest of Paris.

For about a month, the stadium will contain the entire Le Mans FC team and a variety of electronic and communication equipment, including two cameras sending images throughout the entire house. One camera will include a 360-degree screen. Also visible are a laser light show, large white screens playing video from Le Mans FC’s stadium and a bank of 60 LED-illuminated walls visible only from certain angles. While the small group spent Saturday exploring the stadium for the day, it’s still too early to offer a more conclusive picture of its layout and showroom offerings, but there are plenty of clues around.

The building is so big that a maze of underground tunnels created just for the weekend are being turned into a multimedia exhibition celebrating the space and the 21st century stadium experience. Information is provided through multiple channels, including a range of sound and computer graphics. This is an individual level of innovation, but what if the structures could act as light and energy sources?

These are the challenges facing the built environment at the moment. Builders across the world are scrambling to keep up with new light technologies such as LED lights, cameras and displays. But what if there was a way for structures to communicate throughout the world and represent the need for sustainable products? That is the dream of the Roundtable, which was started by French designer Robert Versluys and American architects Ralph Wilson Jr. and Sharon Wright.

First, they created a group called the Roundtable for the Environment (FER) to bring together experts and industry leaders in sustainability research and design. The acronym was meant to be symbolic. Second, they started gathering friends and officials to build their ideas into reality.

Versluys, an Olympic gold medalist, says he was inspired to do something big in his small community of Le Mans after witnessing the impact of the Olympic Games on Le Mans. At that time, the Roundtable had met to discuss the football stadium, and decided to work together to create a sustainable space.

French hopes are that the stadium will demonstrate how the built environment could become more compact, efficient and power efficient. The atmosphere will be “popcorn stadium,” with all of the seats taken up by light and sound.

While the team needed only one week to build the multi-faceted stadium, Versluys says that the designs may change before it officially opens in 2020.

When asked to name his favorite design of the day, Versluys quickly replied, “Yes, the original circuit.” He’s referring to a set of curving roads that led to the construction site of the stadium, not to the dome of the stadium. “This should be a warning,” he added. “The technology of the stadium will continue to develop so much that I think we will have a circular stadium very soon.”

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