To make the spectator experience at Europe’s largest concert hall something exceptional, VINCI Energies business units first had to meet a number of technological challenges.

© Nicolas Borel

Paris La Défense Arena, the 40,000-capacity concert hall inaugurated in October 2017 in the Paris suburb of Nanterre, is all about the spectator experience. Everything in this mammoth project has been designed around a concept, which constantly places the spectator at the heart of a concert or match while delivering maximum comfort. Immersed in an environment of light, sound and image, the audience, who expect always-on connectivity, can engage at any time with the stage and tap into a wide range of services.

Creating a unique experience

To provide the ultimate audience experience, “several VINCI Energies business units combined their skills and put them to use, each in its own field, to meet real technological challenges,” explains Antoine Grand Dufay, project director at VINCI Energies.

For instance, Lefort Francheteau (VINCI Energies) implemented a patented supply air ventilation system, renewing the concert hall’s 750,000 m3 volume of air once per hour. This means that in an enclosed, 40 m-high venue, a temperature variation of less than 1°C is recorded wherever the spectator may be. “For the Rolling Stones concert, the venue was heated before the public arrived, then once the 40,000 spectators had filled the pit we switched to cooling mode. After two hours of intense concert, the temperature had reached a pleasant 24°C,” says Grand Dufay.

Synchronising light, sound, and video

To illuminate the concert area, Santerne IDF (VINCI Energies), in partnership with Philips, deployed 266 outsize LED projectors with a light output of 1,800 lux, three times more powerful than that used for an operating table. “The technology implemented makes it possible to plunge the hall into darkness then to turn the LED projectors back on at full intensity to create an electrifying effect for the public,” states Grand Dufay. “This feature is used extensively,” he adds, “to build suspense in the venue before players come out onto the pitch for a rugby match, say.” The installation also means that high-definition images can be captured, allowing for remarkably precise slow-motion footage and instant replays, and that “light, sound, and video can be fully synchronised and played around with to enhance the fan experience,” adds the project director.

Immersed in an environment of light, sound and image, the audience, who expect always-on connectivity, can engage at any time with the stage.

As for the venue façade, a lighting system with 620 giant aluminium and glass scales was installed and calibrated by Santerne IDF in partnership with Ecce’Lectro. Backlit by 3,000 LED tube lamps, the scales feature a range of 16 million colours aimed at bringing the façade of this unique concert hall to life.

Full Wi-Fi coverage

The thrilling spectator experience is rounded off by full Wi-Fi coverage, provided in partnership with Orange. The 400 Wi-Fi hotspots installed by GTIE Tertiaire (VINCI Energies), responsible for communications and data installations, were designed to enable 15,000 spectators to connect to the internet simultaneously at a speed of 1 Mbps. This boosts convenience as it means that numerous services are available to attendees such as video viewing, interaction with the stage, public voting, and even access to the buffet. Indeed, the option to order beer and sandwiches was on the “full Wi-Fi” menu trialled by Orange during the Euro football championship in France in 2016.

As the brains behind the ticketing service, the site’s 400 video screens, the CCTV and telephony and Wi-Fi systems, “the IT network is one of the focal points of the project,” stresses Antoine Grand Dufay. To secure the network, GTIE Tertiaire and Axians (the VINCI Energies ICT brand) deployed a fully redundant system with two data centres, where one automatically takes over from the other if either goes down. Delivering a rich experience for spectators at Paris La Défense Arena of course also means ensuring that no bugs or power cuts occur.