Powered by solar panels, La Seine Musicale is a new icon for Paris

View of building & dome from across the rive
La Seine Musicale is designed by Shigeru Ban and Jean de Gastines as a new icon for the 21st century.
(Image credit: Laurent Blossier)

Designed by Shigeru Ban and Jean de Gastines, Paris’ new music venue La Seine Musicale has now opened to the public on Île Seguin. A new icon of the 21st century and a gateway to west Paris, the building had to be bold of course, something to rival the Eiffel Tower or the Centre Pompidou, yet it also had to meet contemporary environmental concerns and respond to how the public use and enjoy leisure space today.

The most striking feature of La Seine Musicale is the egg-shaped auditorium made of glass and a lattice of timber laminate from a woven spruce wood and accessorised with a dynamic 800 sq m sail of photovoltaic cells, which shields this core from direct sunlight. This agile and entirely solar-powered form is mounted on rails and follows the path of the sun at 15 minute intervals as it progresses, supplying the auditorium with energy.

Birdseye view of building at night

An aerial view of La Seine Musicale. The Île Seguin masterplan was designed by Jean Nouvel.

(Image credit: Philipe Guinard)

Inside the auditorium – designed for non-amplified music – there is a warm and organic atmosphere, a contrast to the technology-inspired futuristic outer-shell. Designed to bring audiences closer to musicians, a gentle terrace of seating holds a capacity of 1,150 people. Small tubular pieces of wood, cardboard, and paper tubes were assembled and applied across the ceilings to improve acoustics. As well as this iconic auditorium, La Seine Musicale includes a modular concert hall seating 4,000–6,000, nearly a hectare of roof top garden, the Riffx recording and rehearsal studios as well as space for a resident orchestra.

One of the aims of the architects was to create a public building that would express permeability between interior to exterior space, allowing people to filter naturally through the whole site. This porous quality, rooted in traditional Japanese architecture, was defined through the Grand Lobby, a covered ‘street’ that progresses through the heart of La Seine Musicale and out the other side. This was a route planned by Jean Nouvel, when he set out his masterplan for the Île Seguin in 2010 – a complex task for the long and narrow 2.35 hectare site.

Inside the auditorium with red seats facing the centre stage

The auditorium was designed to be warm and organic, a contrast in shape and aesthetic to the exterior design of the auditorium.

(Image credit: Nicolas Grosmond)

Positioned on the route to Versailles, the slim slice of land has a fascinating history however, once owned by Louis XV who acquired it as a playground for his daughters and as a pit stop for weary aristocrats. Later sold to a laundry company, it then became state property after the French Revolution. After changing hands several times, Louis Renault claimed it for his first factory, opened in 1929 and demolished in 2005, leaving the island up for grabs. After a few false starts, one notably from François Pinault, the Ville de Boulogne-Billancourt initiated a plan for an island of culture that would be master planned by Nouvel.

Other sites on the island are slowly being populated by art galleries and cultural venues. Watch this space, but don’t hold your breath – next scheduled to complete in 2021 is the S17 contemporary art gallery and S18 hotel designed by Baumschlager Eberle from developer Emerige.

Staircase in main reception

The architects looked to express permeability between interior to exterior space, allowing people to filter naturally through the whole site

(Image credit: press)

The dome lit up at night

The egg-shaped auditorium made of glass and timber laminate is shielded by a dynamic sail of solar panels that follows the path of the sun

(Image credit: press)

Wide shot of building lit up at night

The Île Seguin is just twenty minutes by metro from the centre of Paris

(Image credit: press)

Top row of seating in the auditorium

The auditiorim seats 1,150 people and is designed for non-amplified music

(Image credit: press)

Close up of acoustic boosting walls

Small tubular pieces of wood, cardboard, and paper tubes improve acoustics in the interior of the auditorium

(Image credit: press)


For more information, visit the La Seine Musicale website


La Seine Musicale
1 Cours de l'Île Seguin
92100 Boulogne-Billancourt


Harriet Thorpe is a writer, journalist and editor covering architecture, design and culture, with particular interest in sustainability, 20th-century architecture and community. After studying History of Art at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and Journalism at City University in London, she developed her interest in architecture working at Wallpaper* magazine and today contributes to Wallpaper*, The World of Interiors and Icon magazine, amongst other titles. She is author of The Sustainable City (2022, Hoxton Mini Press), a book about sustainable architecture in London, and the Modern Cambridge Map (2023, Blue Crow Media), a map of 20th-century architecture in Cambridge, the city where she grew up.