The Philharmonie de Paris: Versatility is Paying Off!
To the northwest of Paris, in the popular district of La Villette, stands the impressive building of the Philharmonie de Paris, entirely coated in aluminium. Designed by internationally renowned French architect Jean Nouvel, it houses a modular 2,400-seat symphony hall with exceptional acoustics and an unprecedented layout. The Grande salle Pierre Boulez is ovoid in shape, and with a stage at the heart of the audience, it creates an enveloping atmosphere and great listening intimacy (only 32 meters between the conductor and the last spectator). Immediately adopted by the public, it had a 96% attendance rate after only one year of activity(1). And since its opening, it has hosted an average of 120 concerts of various musical genres each year(2).This fall, thanks to this versatility, Parsifal, Wagner’s ultimate opera, will get alongside Catherine Ringer, for example, the singer of the iconic French duo Rita Mitsouko!
To achieve this tour de force, Jean Nouvel, assisted by Métra et associés, worked with the greatest acousticians, New Zealander Harold Marshall and Japanese Yasuhisa Toyota, as well as with the French agency Ducks Scéno, which has more than twenty-five years‘ experience in the design of large concert venues. These designers have provided the hall with outstanding acoustic and scenic flexibility through the integration of various bold devices, such as wooden clouds used as sound reflectors, removable curtains, automated platforms for different stage configurations and a fully convertible tiered area. The Grande salle can thus host an acoustic classical orchestra concert one evening, a concert of amplified contemporary music the next day or various shows such as dance or opera, while offering almost perfect acoustics in every situation.
A great scenic flexibility
It is to AMG-Féchoz, a firm specialized in the creation of custom-made stage machinery for high-performance venues, such as the HANOI Opera House, the Grimaldi Forum in MONACO or the Cité des Loisirs in TUNIS, that all the stage equipment for the Grande salle has been entrusted. In particular, the lower level of the hall (floor and symphonic stage), completely modular, integrates eleven rows of convertible seats and about forty automated platforms. Driven by extremely compact mechanical actuators called Spiralift, these platforms can be adjusted to optimally accommodate orchestras of various types and sizes. The Philharmonie is now one of more than one thousand five hundred installations worldwide that feature Spiralift devices developed by the Canadian firm Gala Systems, a leader in the multipurpose hall systems industry.
As for the first eleven rows of seats, equipped with a Gala Venue® transformable seating
system, they can disappear completely to leave place to a flat floor area at the touch of a button! The Grande salle can thus be transformed at discretion from a symphonic mode of 2,400 seats to a „standing audience“ configuration during contemporary music concerts, increasing its capacity to 3,650 spectators. The 15-minute operation consists of tilting the 378 stepped seats under the floor, where they are then stored in an inverted position using motorized swivel pins. The Gala Venue solution further provides rigidity and stability to the bleachers, regardless of their layout or the type of seats chosen. Rows of high-quality armchairs, custom-designed by the Spanish firm Figueras, have been arranged in a semi-circle to blend harmoniously into the organic, curved atmosphere of the Grande salle. For the audience, it is impossible to tell the difference between the traditional fixed bleachers of the room and those that are completely removable. The collaboration with AMG-Féchoz, which designed, manufactured and installed all the motorized platforms as well as the 11 curved rows of the parterre has helped showcase the high technology and reliability of our products in such prestigious locations.
Versatility at the service of the public
Competing with the world’s largest concert halls, from Tokyo to Berlin, the Philharmonie de Paris symphony hall best combines exceptional acoustic performance with a surrounding leading-edge architecture. Its innovative concept also lies in its versatility: equipped with the latest solution in venue transformation technology – the Gala Venue –, it can effectively switch from a symphonic mode (2,400 seats) to an „amplified“ mode (3,650 seats) automatically!
Adapting to the different types of musical productions (classical, opera, musical comedy, jazz, hip-hop…), while offering the greatest visual and auditory comfort each time, the public could listen to the pianist Lang Lang as well as Oxmo Puccino and his Alice in Wonderland. For Laurent Bayle, executive director of the Philharmonie de Paris, the success of the Grande salle „[…] holds great promise as it is accompanied by a diversification and renewal of the audience“(3). More music lover oriented on weekdays, younger and family oriented on weekends, let’s bet that it will continue to respond massively to this musical offer of a great diversity of genres presented in an exceptional setting!
1. Activity report. Cité de la musique Philharmonie de Paris. Year 2015.
2. Activity report. Cité de la musique Philharmonie de Paris. Year 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.
3. Activity report. Cité de la musique Philharmonie de Paris. Year 2015.