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SPECIAL: Interview with Daniel Vaniche on the transformation of POPB into the Accor Hotels Arena

In the following special interview piece, Daniel Vaniche, Managing Director and Founder of DVVD – an architecture, engineering and design firm based in Paris, France – details their work on the Accor Hotels Arena project, which saw the redevelopment of the POPB.

The POPB had been France’s largest multifunctional sports and concert centre for 30 years, regularly hosting an array of concerts, shows and sporting events. And the Arena’s location along the river Seine in downtown Paris was exceptional. It was also an iconic and representative building of the architecture of Paris of the 1980s.

However, the building had aged during the last three decades and the powers that be recognised that the Arena was no longer compliant with the current security, environment and safety regulations. Even more importantly, it no longer met the expectations of either the spectators or the artists/sportsmen.

The specificity and uniqueness of the POPB led DVVD to question our intervention on the existing building, both in technical and architectural terms. We had to figure out how to respect the original project, while offering spectators the experience expected of a 21st Century Arena. Moreover, the transformation involved singular technical challenges, confronting a new program with a remarkable existing envelope.

Outside, it seemed essential to keep the familiar shape of the building, with its blue metal grid on the roof and green natural lawns sloping down. But the building was totally closed: so in the new design we opened it up on its immediate context, in a fine-tuned transparency with the street level, the boulevard and the river Seine. We created a glazed hall at street level, open to the public daily, with terraces, a promenade from the street to the river
Seine, and a Seine-side entrance. The new Arena is therefore inviting the neighbourhood to discover the life of the building that awaits inside.

We also worked on creating transitional spaces to accompany the spectator from the ambiance and life of the city outside to the heterotopic universe of the show inside. Bars, exhibition spaces and restaurants around the Arena create an inside/outside ambiance and have been designed in a delicate Parisian spirit, with natural, bright and warm materials. The interior spaces have also been entirely reconfigured to improve functionality, comfort and acoustics, with natural light now entering the Arena at the heart of the building.

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Inside the Arena, the redevelopment is even more noticeable: with the number of seats increased from 17,000 to 20,300, the number of VIP suites tripled (from 18 to 54) and lounge space switched from 300sqm to 3,000 sqm! Obviously the transformation also included the addition of the latest in acoustics, the design of new comfortable seats, temperature control, modularity, flexibility and again a specific study of material colours to focus on the event and enhance the show.

The Arena’s energy consumption has also been cut signifcantly thanks to the improvements on the envelope, the control of the energy in the building and in using more efficient machines: the project now complies with the Climate Plan of the City of Paris. Most of these interventions, invisible to the eye of the many visitors, are crucial for the diversity of events and the quality of experiences.

The POPB, now transformed into the Accor Hotels Arena, is ready to welcome all sports, concerts and events of the XXIst century.

Good design is good business

More than any other project, the business plan of the future Arena was key in the project, for a simple reason: the refurbishment is being paid for by a loan on future revenues! Therefore, the architecture, business plan and engineering have all been intimately worked together. Of course, giving a new experience to the customer/client/spectator/fan has been key to the project’s success, including welcoming, ambiance, acoustics, comfort, new seats and providing more services than in any arena in the world.

These new services include a main hall that can accommodate exhibitions and five partner showrooms, a lounge bar and restaurant on the street, 15 bars and restaurants with “French” quality food outlets around the arena, Wi-Fi and IT services to customers, direct access from parking, valet services, etc. All of which had to be well thought-out and integrated from the conception stage, including a central kitchen to prepare the quality of food expected from a chef.

To increase the revenue of the Arena, multiple functions and capabilities have been dramatically transformed, including:
– Capacity of the arena increased by 20%, from 17,000- to 20,300-seats
– VIP seating capacity increased by 566%, from 300 to 2,000
– The capacity of the VIP lounges increased by 900%, from 300sqm to 3,000sqm
– Number of cash desks for food and beverage increased by 100%, from 25 to 50
– F&B revenue increased by 100%
– Flexibility of the arena to be able to welcome new events and also to be able to cater for more events year-round, sometimes with a new event each day of the week, increasing the number of events by 50%, from 120 to 180

Even more importantly, the Arena has been designed to integrate a naming-rights agreement that did not exist before, and triple the number of partnerships (the figures for which are confidential); the Accor Hotels Arena is the highest partnership revenue arena in France, in a branding deal that mixes sports, fun, events, experience, comfort and luxury.

As I mentioned before, the sustainable architecture developed for the project has also had a positive financial impact; reducing the consumption of the building 4-fold!

Finally, the refurbishment had to take into account the schedule of the Arena, making possible the hosting of the Masters 1,000 and 20 concerts in a temporary reopening of the building, all of which was held in a incredibly fast work schedule; 7 months/reopening/10 months, as well as a unique budget of 110 million euro (with no cost overruns!).

The original POPB employed 100 to 250 people, whereas the newly transformed Accor Hotels Arena employs 400 to 600 people, in more skilled functions, and with a stronger corporate identity. And although the transformation of the POPB into the Accor Hotels Arena began with the architecture, it has created a change of culture for the entire French entertainment economy.

Photos: Sergio Grazia

Daniel Vaniche DVVD

DANIEL VANICHE

DPLG registered architect
Engineer, École Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées engineering school
Engineer, Polytechnique

Managing Director of DVVD
Founder of DVVD

Lecturer:

École Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées, Paris
Marne-la-Vallée School of Architecture, Paris
Fontainebleau School of Fine Arts

Before founding DVVD, Daniel Vaniche worked with Marc Mimram and has been involved in study and design work ranging from bridges to cinemas, including residential, factories, offices, stadiums and swimming pools, with architects such as Chémétov, Huidobro, Dusapin, Leclerc, Fainsilber, Chémétoff, Clément, Geoffroy-Dechaume, and Cattani.

 

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