A graphic rendering that shows a birds-eye view of the FC Mulhouse stadium and plaza, by LSW Architects.

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Designing For a City’s Past, Present, and Future: The Master Plan for FC Mulhouse's New Stadium

May 03, 2022 by Clayton Truscott

During the early months of 2020, LSW took on a dream project: creating the master plan and design for a new football (soccer) stadium in Mulhouse, France. The stadium and its surrounding facilities would help cast a vision for the new home of FC Mulhouse (FCM), the city’s local team, and welcome the community to a freshly reimagined, invigorated athletics district.

For many of us at LSW, it was an energizing opportunity to harness a wide range of personal and professional interests and bring them to the drafting table: sports, placemaking, urban renewal, and sustainability, among others.

For context, Mulhouse is a mid-sized city in Northeastern France with a population of around 280,000 people. It’s home to the world’s largest vehicle and railway museums, the Cité de l'Automobile (National Museum of the Automobile) and the Cité du Train (Museum of the Railway), owing these to its origins as the industrial landmark where classic cars and trains were built. While city’s economy has modernized and evolved, its natural and architectural beauty still reflect an appreciation for timeless design.

Designed For the City’s Past, Present, and Future

The initial masterplan and design reveal a landmark venue that would be a world-class sports destination and playground, carefully integrated into the city’s waterfront and the greater Mulhouse community. To accomplish this, the team from LSW worked closely with the owner to get a strong sense of their vision and the Mulhouse community. “Understanding context and history was everything for this project. Looking back to the automotive and textile manufacturing history of the region provided us, as a design team, a framework for design inspiration that considers the future of the urban fabric of the city,” Project Architect, Christian Korta, explained.

The football stadium’s elliptical form is derived from the iconic and aerodynamic outlines of the classic cars and trains that were built in Mulhouse. It was important to make the program’s centerpiece and star attraction reflect the city’s industrial roots in a way that captures the hearts and minds of residents today and inspires greatness in future generations.

A great visual effect is the reference to the team’s crest, which shows up in the retractable roof. When opened, the silhouette of the shield is juxtaposed against the sky. The shell extends beyond the building, creating a sheltered pedestrian experience for visitors to the restaurants and cafes. Under the building’s curvilinear shell is an enclosure of glass. The glass pattern creates a more intimate scale for visitors to relate to and draws inspiration from the city’s history in textiles.

This addition to the city will add a 25,000-seat soccer stadium, a smaller 5,000-seat stadium, indoor and outdoor practice fields, and a competition track.

The stadium is complemented by the dramatic design of the five-star hotel (above), which takes its form from the grill of a classic car. The building ties to the stadium in its materials and form. It is framed by a curvilinear shell and shares similar patterns in its glass wall system.

Plaza

Understanding that a stadium is so much more than a venue for derby days and practice, the team dug deep to make the program as pedestrian and user-friendly to the city as possible. The heart of the site is a public plaza, which fronts the stadiums. This space stitches into the Riverwalk, extending the tree lined path through the site. This plaza will be a hub of activity, acting as the primary entrance to the stadium and gateway to outdoor seating for restaurants and cafes, and connections between the street and river.

Beyond the stadiums, a central component of the design is its connection to everything around it, literally and figuratively. Through flying bridges, the city’s active Riverwalk has been used to create a navigable track that connects the plaza to the volleyball stadium, parks, aquatics, and athletics centers that are located across the river, which are all fed by the adjoining neighborhoods. The vision is to stitch the city together along the river, activating the entire riverfront by making it completely accessible to all.

“Understanding the culture in Mulhouse – what moves people and complements their lifestyle – was the first important step in finding ways to make this project fit within the community. We worked hard with the owner to make sure the final product was so much more than a standalone stadium. Rather, it’s a vibrant playground that tells the city’s story,” said Principal, Brent Young.