One space for infinite events, from sport to culture to music
When you look at Espace Mayenne in Laval, France, an image comes to mind of a white veil that, carried on the wind, has come to rest on the ground, adapting to its shape, with a corner slightly lifted as it hides among the green of nature. As well as being a new center for cultural and sporting events, this multifunction complex in the Ferriè district, a redevelopment of a former military site, is part of an urban revitalization program. Underlying Hérault Arnod Architectures’ project, which began with an in-depth study of the location, was a desire to create an innovative hub that’s not only in step with the times, but, in particular, also respectful of its setting, the history of the site, and the local natural heritage.
While the main structure adjoins a velodrome with a central training track and nearby parking, Espace Mayenne is immersed in nature, with fields, wetlands, ponds, woods, and protected historical trees all nearby. In part for this reason, during the design and construction phases, there was a sharp focus on minimizing land consumption, limiting the built surface while leaving space for any future developments on the site. Respect for the natural shape of the land was therefore a key part of the design of the center and its different levels, as well as of the cycling and sports track, both designed to fit in with the lay of the land.
From outside, Espace Mayenne is reminiscent of a white veil resting on the ground. At some points, the veil covers the structure to its full height, from ground to roof. At others, it lifts off the ground to reveal the windows beneath. This occurs at the main entrance, where visitors have the sensation of being in constant contact with the outside world.
The “ribbon” façade with its white aluminum cladding embraces the sports and recreational spaces inside, creating a sense of fluidity and a delicately organic feel, despite its solidity. The effect created of constant movement means that Espace Mayenne appears different from every angle.
From the conceptual and design perspectives, the floating effect of the façade is created by its three superimposed sheet-like layers, which overlap and rotate around each other.
Accessed via a lobby located at the intersection between the three layers and characterized by shell-like ceilings and acoustic wood paneling, the interior of Espace Mayenne is divided into three main areas: a sports facility that converts into an entertainment space, a climbing wall, and a conference room. By reorganizing the furnishings and systems, the sports facility quickly transforms into an auditorium for cultural, musical, and entertainment events. As a sports facility, its tiered seating provides spaces for 4,500 people around the track; in its second configuration, the seats are moved on one side to make way for a stage.
The space’s variety of functions have made audio and acoustic management vital, with sound technicians and engineers brought on board. To control reverberation and absorption, the walls are rough white corrugated concrete and wool felt. This material is also used for the suspended ceiling panels, which, standing out from the dark shape of the lighting grid above, create geometric patterns with both a functional and aesthetic value. Converting the space from a sports to entertainment venue is also made possible by the grid systems, hidden behind the wool felt panels, which allow great flexibility in terms of the equipment used.
Location: Laval, France
Architects: Hérault Arnod Architectures
Surface: 15.100 m2
Client: Conseil Départemental de la Mayenne
Project Team: Hérault Arnod Architectures, design and project supervisor
Study team: Mickael Dusson and Jérôme Moenne-Loccoz, project managers, with Thomas Féraud, Paola Figueroa, Rana Abi Ghanem
Execution team: Florent Bellet, project manager, with Arnaud Gilet
Scenography: Ducks Scéno
Roads and utilities: B3i
Graphic design: Gérard Plénacoste
Outdoor lighting: Hervé Audibert
Photography by Cyrille Weiner, courtesy of Hèrault Arnod Architectures