The result of an international design competition in 2004, the new building is characterized by its aerodynamic roof and flexible performance space, and marks a major departure from Zénith’s tradition of using temporary venues. The Zenith will be launched by a series of public events, culminating in the first concert on 12 October. As the first purpose built state-of-the art music venue in the Rhône-Alpes region of France, the project will greatly raise Saint-Etienne’s profile as a regional venue for arts events and help to drive the regeneration of this former industrial city. The adaptable performance space can be configured to accommodate 1,100 to 7,200 people and host a variety of productions, from music to sports events including tennis and skating. Access to the concert hall is across a broad ramped podium that incorporates the artists’ and backstage facilities and bridges a busy road. This creates a large plaza, shaded in part by the deep overhang of the roof canopy which also shades a generous glazed foyer. The building’s form is energy efficient and offers great flexibility. Located in a valley with prevailing north and south winds, the cantilevered roof structure channels air through the building – the system is fully reversible to take advantage of winds from both directions to assist natural ventilation and cooling. At night, the cold air currents through the auditorium are harnessed, using the thermal properties of the exposed concrete finishes in the auditorium.