The competition to extend and renovate the Opera House in Lyon, the second largest city in France, was won by Nouvel in 1986 with a project that used the old building, particularly its grand ground- and first-floor façades on the south, east, and west, as a point of departure and reference for the new. The brief called for providing a larger auditorium, a second 200-seat amphitheater (which Nouvel placed in the three new basement levels) and public spaces, including a restaurant, new rehearsal facilities, and a fly tower. By retaining the older façades, Nouvel linked the building to the surrounding official buildings, such as the adjacent nineteenth century Hotel de Ville, the town hall and mayor's office for the city, and the nearby city museum, housed in the nineteenth-century Palais de Saint Pierre. The new drum roof, like the lid of an enormous jewel box, however, marks it as wholly contemporary. This contradiction resolves itself, since the balance between the two elements is matched by their contrast, in material, texture, and color. New glass walls or glazed entrances have been inserted between arches of the old colonnades, so that from within and without the grey-black lustrous underside of the new main auditorium appears suspended in the 30-meter-high vault of the entry hall. A series of escalators, metalwork stairways, and suspended walkways takes the public up to the entry levels of the main hall. in the auditorium itself each seat back is fitted with a small light fed from a fiber-optic cable. This technological innovation evolved from the eighteenth century, when theaters had candleholders in each seat back to illuminate the faces of the audience. Red light bathes the exterior at night, particularly under the drum of the arch enclosing the new rehearsal rooms, behind and above the peristyle of the façade. By both night and day this dense and complex building forms a new landmark for the city.
Conway Lloyd Morgan
in "The Elements of Architecture"
STATUS Inaugurated 1993
LOCATION Place de la Comedie, Lyon, France
NET FLOOR AREA 18 000m2, 180 000sq ft
PROGRAM 1300-seat opera,200-seat amphitheatre, new rehearsal facilities, fly loft, restaurant, administration, workshops, hall
CIENT City of Lyon
Jean Nouvel et Associés, Blamont (competition and conceptual phases) Jean Nouvel, Emmanuel Cattani et Associés (construction phase)
PROJECT MANAGER Eric Maria, Françoise Raynaud
ARCHITECTS Marie-France Baldran, Viviane Morteau, Lea Thirode, Sabine Rosant, Material : Andrea Maeder
SITE COORDINATION Stefane Robert
ECONOMIST Sery Bertrand
SCENOGRAPHY Babel (design phase), Ducks (construction Phase)
CONSULTANT SCENOGRAPHER Jacques Le Marquet
STRUCTURE Kephren S.A.
ACOUSTICS Peutz Et Associes
SECURITY Casso Gaudin
COST CONSULTANT Scic
TECHNICAL CONTROL Socotec, Apave
VAULT LIGHTING CONSULTANT Yann Kersale
GRAPHIC DESIGNER Sabine Rosant
PHOTOGRAPHS Philippe Ruault, Stephane Couturier