National Theatre Centre, Saint Etienne

Conservation of industrial heritage

The interior space of the former factory building is retained in a way that emphasises its monumental industrial character; its sturdy forms and materials are employed and redeployed in La Comédie’s creative future.

From all angles within the building, the design provides visitors with a sweeping panoramic view of the retained steel structures, including the tracks used for traveling cranes, the cranes themselves, the tower heads and the building’s steel framework.

Existing cranes have been reused in the design, forming the support for the large access stairway to the centre’s small hall, for example, or bearing the interior signage.

They have also been used to hold up a large movable screen that can be used for projections opposite the entrance stairs to the small hall.

Rather than being accorded to a merely token presence, cranes and other elements of the factory’s infrastructure contribute to the industrial aspects of the project in practical and aesthetically engaging ways.

The industrial site before the work began

Section showing the theatre

A theatre in red

The project’s sensitive and balanced architectural design concentrates on the restoration of the halls, while at the same time suggesting how new life can be introduced into this former industrial site and the area adapted for a variety of new uses.

The various shades of red used, the elaborate criss-crossing of the visitor routes through the site, the signage and the surrounding landscape all contribute to the idea of new life being introduced into the site.

New infrastructure is being built that will give the Comédie de Saint-Etienne the flexibility it needs, and the new architectural framework will establish a new relationship with the city of Saint-Etienne andthe theatre-going public, creating a centre for the performing arts that is open to all and in constant motion.

Through its positioning as a dynamic national centre for the performing arts and an architectural design that underlines its dynamism and innovation, the Comédie de Saint-Etienne will enjoy an influence reputation going far beyond its local region.

Site plan

Reaching out to the public, the city, the surrounds

The project represents a renewal of the relationship between La Comédie de Saint-Etienne and the city of Saint-Etienne,  as well as the desire to reach both existing and new audiences.

The openess of the architectural project with its sweeping views outward and fluidity between exterior and interior landscapes, as well as the ease of visitor circulation, mirrors the mission of La Comédie as a centre for innovation with inclusive artistic and social vocations.

Not only steeped in the local context and the city’s aspirations for the performing arts, the studioMilou project also creates a theatre able to compete with the highest international standards in terms of performing-arts architecture and facilities.


Chief Architect and Principal Consultant studioMilou architecture Jean François Milou, MAES architects, maitrise d’oeuvre d’execution, principal architect & lead designer Thomas Rouyrre, architect and project manager from competition to sketch design Maria Campos, architect, project manager from Detail Design to construction of the works Shinobu Takaso, architect main assistant Alexander Lahyani, assistant architect Angel Menéndez, assistant architect Jean-Loup Baldacci, architect freelance designer la salle de théâtre, development of the sketch design for the theatre

Technical Consultants

Architecture & Technique Jacques Moyal, theatre design consultant Peutz, Stéphane Mercier, Sylvain Guitton, acoustic consultant Batiserf, Bernard Schmitt, civil & structural engeeniering Nicolas Ingénieries, Raoul Nicolas, mechanical & electrical + environmental engineering Bureau Michel Forgue, Michel Forgue, Fanny Chattonet Haillant, quantity surveyor Intégral Ruedi Baur IRB / Ruedi Baur, graphic signage concept



The City of Saint-Etienne / EPASE Public Establishment Senator Maurice Vincent Mayor of Saint Etienne, city mayor Carole Voogden, project manager Stéphane Quadrio, EPASE, project manager Lionel Diard, tender stage project manager Arnaud Meunier, director of la Comedie theatre François Corbier, Ville de Saint-Etienne, department of culture, director Laurence Rotger, Ville de Saint-Etienne, project development and improvement of heritage

Area: 8,000 m² Amount of Work: 18.5 M€ Completion Date: 2016