La Licorne Football Stadium
Modest in size and cost, this stadium pursues with singular grace a search for discreet lightness, for a fine and almost erased high-tech writing that is generally the hallmark of this architectural partnership.
It is from the south-west, at the slip road and the city s new beltway, that the best view of this fine building can be perceived. From that viewpoint, it appears as an immense greenhouse partially concealed by the hollow opening in the field in Renancourt, a village near the old city.
With majestic and ethereal distinction, it is surrounded by cornfields and foliage. Through its tall glazed walls can be seen the higher forest in the distance, the celebrated cathedral so highly praised by John Ruskin which stands two or three kilometres away, as well as Auguste Perret s austere concrete tower, little appreciated by the local population, and finally, further to the left, the public housing estates of Etouvie.
Seen from closer-up, the simplicity of this work lives up to expectations. Its oblique façades or pitched roofs and four large glass shells are barely raised, to emerge from a turfed embankment. The structure is highly legible: regular arches succeed one another at intervals of 8 metres, rising to nearly 26 metres above field level. Lacquered in white, they are balanced on an oblique rod (equivalent to that of a platform scale) which is itself embedded in vertical concrete piles, whilst their base rests on a beam-bracket that acts as a tie-rod and absords the stress at the foot of the bascule rod. At one-metre intervals, horizontal tubes built into the outer edge of the arches act as buttresses to the glazed walls. Clad by 10 mm glass plates, these buttresses are clamped to a hood which seals the glass wall and causes the rainwater to flow into a long lateral gutter.
The stadium provides 12,000 seats (extendable to 20,000), distributed around a strict rectangle with twelve flights of tiers. The result is a sort of vast outdoor room, at the same time spacious and welcoming. It suggests a balanced harmony of city and nature, stadium and landscape, between the vivid greenness of the field, and the often rainy skies of this part of France.