ocated on Seine Île Seguin (Seguin Island), La Seine Musicale isn’t only an aesthetically-stunning building – praised by the likes of Condé Nast Traveler – it also features almost 800m² of solar panels placed on a 45m-high, 200-tonne moving ‘sail’ which mirrors the path of the sun throughout the day, moving at 0.08m/s.
Within the framework of the renovation of Seguin Island, the sail, as a symbol of technology, represents an arrival in the 21st century where the dominant themes are modernity and a respect for the environment.
A radical revival
The creation of the main building of La Seine Musicale was entrusted to Shigeru Ban in association with Paris-based Jean de Gastines. The event venue itself is intended to host music of every genre in a large-scale public cultural facility with a surface area of 36,500m². The stadium is part of the comprehensive redevelopment of Seguin Island, with construction taking place over 255,000m², of which 84,000m² is dedicated to culture. The site chosen for the project has undeniable appeal in terms of landscape, even though the building process was made more complicated due to restricted access on account of it being an island, as well as storage problems because its 2.35-hectare surface is spread out over a long, narrow area.
Four centuries ago, Seguin Island was cultivated by farmers. Situated on the road linking Versailles to Paris, it then became a rest stop for aristocrats, before Louis XV acquired it for his daughters.
Sold to a laundry company, it became state property once more after the French Revolution.
Fought over by Sèvres, Issy and Auteuil, its land was acquired in 1794 by the Chemist, Armand Seguin, who experimented with a new process of tanning there. But as the 19th century came to a close, the island started to welcome both industrial and leisure activities, including pigeon hunting, fishing and boating.
In June 1919, when Louis Renault bought up land on the island, he earmarked it first and foremost for allotments for workers. 10 years later, the flourishing company already had 3000 employees within its ranks, spread out over nearly 300,000m2 in the southeast of Boulogne-Billancourt, in former homes and gardens transformed into workshops, foundries and more, linked by railway.
It was not until 1934 that Renault inaugurated its state-of-the-art factory; two years later, in the midst of the Popular Front movements, the occupied building would come to symbolise the struggles of the workers. In 1944, upon the death of its patriarch, the Renault factories had produced 900,000 vehicles in less than half a century. Together with the new factory in Flin, the Seguin Island plant mass-produced the models for which the company would become famous: the Frégate, the 4CV, the Dauphine (2000 vehicles a day from 1955 onwards), the Caravelle, the R4, R5, R6 and R16.
By the early 1990s, the factory could no longer keep up with the competition and closed its doors definitively on March 31st, 1992. Renault’s Seguin Island plant was razed to the ground in 2005. Thus, this great historical site of France’s 20th-century automotive heritage and the symbol of union conquests disappeared at the same time.
Exactly one century after the Belle Époque, Seguin Island is being reinstated into a contemporary leisure-focused society and, benefiting from well-reasoned town planning, it is open to all. This new face is reinforced by its unique geographical position along the river that extends throughout the entirety of the Department of Hauts-de-Seine.
Seguin Island is nestled in the loop that stretches from Issy-les-Moulineaux to Nanterre. Thanks to the cooperation of the Ville de Boulogne-Billancourt, the Departmental Council was permitted to purchase a third of the island in 2010 in order to build La Seine Musicale (for the symbolic price of one euro). The island spans a distance of nearly 324m along the Seine, with a surface area of 36,500m2 built on 2.35 hectares of land, which is now owned by the Departmental Council of Hauts-de-Seine.
A state-of-the-art venue
The complex comprises a 4000- to 6000-seat concert hall and a 1150-seat auditorium, and also features premises dedicated to artists in residence and adjoining spaces, putting La Seine Musicale in the same league as the facilities of other great European capitals such as London (the Southbank Centre), Hamburg (Elbe Philharmonic) and Rome (Parco della Musica Auditorium).
La Seine Musicale has taken shape thanks to Patrick Devedjian, President of the Departmental Council of Hauts-de-Seine, who wants it to be “the gateway to the Vallée de la Culture in Hauts-de-Seine”.
The building, designed by Shigeru Ban and Jean de Gastines, succeeded in resolving the challenge presented by both the complexity of the site and the scope of this cultural project. The architects managed to play within these limitations in such a way that the integrity of the project was never compromised. It is, moreover, the resolution of these complexities that highlights the difficulty and the appeal of the work of Shigeru Ban and Jean de Gastines for La Seine Musicale. Since becoming a landmark in this region west of Paris, La Seine Musicale has become the region’s icon, visible from numerous axes into the capital.
Designed in congruence with the urban plan conceived by Jean Nouvel for the entirety of the island, it is an emblem of the culture of Hauts-de-Seine. Its largely elongated shape recalls that of an ocean liner, whose built-up base slopes to reveal the auditorium: a nest of woven wood with rounded forms.
Key construction figures:
- €170m invested in construction •3000m² of convention space for corporate use
- 34,500m² entirely dedicated to music
- 23,044m² plot of land
- 300 events each year
- Five state-of-the-art recording studios
- One 800m² LED screen, equivalent in size to a handball court
- Nearly 800m² of solar panels, making up a 45m-high moving sail that follows the course of the sun and moves at 0.08m/s
- 4000m² of glass and 700m3 of timber framing for the facade of the auditorium
- The 7410m² garden, equivalent in size to a football field, notably includes 13 trees of different species, which, when fully grown, will reach heights of up to 7m
- 1000 wooden hexagons adorning the acoustic ceiling of the auditorium
- A colossal glass door (10m wide by 10.5m tall, weighing nearly five metric tons), the only one of its kind in the world, powered by a hydraulic generator
- Seven million tiles adorning the acoustic shell of the auditorium, forming an iridescent, 3400m² mosaic •29 elevators joining the stage in the auditorium
- 700m-long pedestrian walkway on the roof
- 324m-long site (equal to the height of the Eiffel Tower)
- Venue open to the public five days a week.