The competition for the design of the retractable roof of Stade Roland Garros’ Suzanne Lenglen Court has been won by Dominique Perrault Architect (DPA). The competition was held by the French Tennis Federation (FFT) and the Société de Livraison des Ouvrages Olympiques who are responsible for the stadium that is the site for the annual French Open, a Grand Slam tournament.
After the retractable roof that was installed on the Philippe Chatrier Court, the second-largest court of the stadium, the Suzanne Lenglen Court allowed its own to be an addition to the expansion and renovation of the stadium. The work on the stadium had been underway since 2017 after some legal issues were sorted and were completed in time for the 2020 French Open, which was later delayed due to the ongoing pandemic.
The project aimed to work on the court’s roof but also improve upon and focus on the public spaces that surround it, specifically to the south of the court, to add its character. The roof itself has a major function to cover the court and protect it from the exterior weather conditions while allowing the sporting events to continue without any obstructions or shadows.
The design proposed is of a ‘floating roof’ that hangs over the existing stands and uses a visibly comprehensible system, including rails and locking mechanisms. The roof is designed such that it does not affect the existing character of the court, rather adds on to its architectural value. The roof is fixed from three ends – east, west, and south, opening up the view of the northern end. The east and west sides span up to 87 m, and is the side where the folding happens, towards the southern end that contains the tools required to unfold the roof as and when required.
The roofing uses mesh fabric and techniques of pleating to bring an aura of sophistication, lightness, and intricacy to the roof – where it combines the detailing of mechanical structure with the design concept. The roof is composed of 21 modules, each of which is 5 m wide and 44 m long. The fabric proposed is PTFE (also known as Teflon) for its translucence, low maintenance, and durability. Grey tones are kept throughout to maintain neutrality in contrast with the red tones of the clay court.
While the Suzanne Lenglen court is not located as the central court, it forms the main façade of the Roland Garros site – which has been at the focus of the project.