The French Open at Roland Garros has this year got a brand new feel to one of the courts. 2019 sees the maiden match of Court Simonne-Mathieu after years of court battles very nearly prevented it from opening with its feel of green space and surrounding areas of greenhouses. It truly is a brand new aesthetic for tennis fans visiting the French Capital. The court is named after Simonne Mathieu, a World War II resistance figure in France, as well as the women’s champion at the French Open in both 1938 and 1939.
The 5,000-seater venue has been a controversial development, despite the uniqueness of its architecture and design. It is located within the Jardin des Serres d’Auteuil, which is well regarded as one of the most treasured green spaces in Paris. The court is slightly detached from the rest of the courts at Roland Garros, making it a completely unique experience for visitors. Walking to the new court from the main area of Roland Garros will see visitors walk through an orangery, with a beautiful lawn and places to sit and sip champagne in the gardens before taking in a set.
The architectural plans and designs for the new court at the French Open have gone through five years of legal battles, with the Roland Garros management at odds with some local residents, as well as environmentalists. There was a worry that the new construction would have a severe and negative impact on the 19th century greenhouses that can be found in the gardens. The battle was so long and arduous that it was even considered for the Open to be moved away from the capital to somewhere in the suburbs.
The design of the new court is a really interesting one and is part of the 350 million euro renovation. It is fully enclosed by four greenhouses, providing the incredible walkways for spectators entering the arena. These greenhouses are home to the only plant ecosystem of its kind, with collections from Australia, South-East Asia, Africa, and South America.
Marc Mimram Architecture & Associés designed the new Court Simonne Mathieu with a view to it becoming the third show court at the venue which hosts one of the four major tennis tournaments each year. It is a beautiful design, incorporating the beautiful gardens well, whilst building in a natural level of functionality that is obviously required at a tennis tournament venue and public gardens where facilities are required for the public to utilise.
The four greenhouses are built around the outside of the court, which is sunken slightly into the ground. It is a fantastic expression of how architecture can use the natural surroundings as inspiration for design, melding performance, events, nature, and beauty seamlessly into one stunning piece of architecture and design. It also goes to show how modern sports stadiums and arenas do not have to follow a script and can be completely unique in ways that hasn’t always seemed possible in the drive for the modernisation of sport in recent years.