Interview with Sylvie Biancheri
The Grimaldi Forum is a versatile and modular building. It now covers 75,000 m2 over six floors. It offers spaces for receptions, exhibitions, catering, meetings and several auditoriums. The complex is dedicated to culture (exhibitions, shows) and business tourism (congresses, fairs, conventions, team building).
The esplanade and the entrance to the Grimaldi Forum. Photo © Olivia Marocco.
Every year 250,000 people visit the Grimaldi Forum to work or have fun. The creation of the eco-district has made it possible to build an extension to this infrastructure that is a key tool for tourism in the Principality and essential to maintain its leadership in Europe.
Sylvie Biancheri is the General Manager of the Grimaldi Forum. She has been running the congress centre since its creation 20 years ago. In this interview, she stresses the absolute necessity of increasing the facility’s reception capacities.
What does extending the Grimaldi Forum as part of the creation of the offshore extension imply?
In concrete terms, this means creating 6,000 m2 of additional usable space for our customers and 4,000 m2 of technical and logistical areas. This extension of the Grimaldi Forum by 10,000 m2 is essential to further develop our activities in the future.
Given the location of our building we cannot dig any deeper, the Grimaldi Forum being already 20 metres below sea level. And we cannot rise any higher because of the surrounding buildings. To the east are the Larvotto beaches and to the west the Japanese garden. So there was no other option. We are delighted that this possibility of extension has been given to us by the Prince’s Palace and the Government. When compared to other congress centres on a similar scale, the Grimaldi Forum, over the last 20 years, has become one of the most important in Europe.
But we have reached our capacity limits for some events.
In order to prepare for the future, pursue our growth momentum and perpetuate Monaco’s attractiveness as a business and congress tourism destination, an extension was necessary.
On the right, the future entrance to the extension of the Grimaldi Forum is located opposite and a few metres from the main building. Photos © Principauté de Monaco – SAM L’Anse du Portier – Renzo Piano Building Workshop – Valode & Pistre Architectes – Michel Desvigne Paysagiste.
Without these new spaces, would the Grimaldi Forum be affected by competition?
Yes. For 20 years, we have had loyal customers. But they too have grown and today they are cramped in the current building. Competition is fiercer and fiercer and more and more congress centres are opening all over Europe. To be attractive in this sector, which is always eager for innovation, it is important to show that we are also changing. It is also strategic for the Principality: Monaco is an easy destination to fill at certain times. But the event sector offers the opportunity to attract people all year round, there is no longer really an off-season.
The Grimaldi Forum attracts large companies to the Principality that travel up to 3,000 people for their events, and generate business for the restaurant and hotel sectors, but also for many services even in winter. No facility outside the Grimaldi Forum can host events of this size that benefit everyone. So it’s very important. The indirect economic benefits of our establishment for the Principality1 was 50 million euros in 2018.
What will this extension allow you?
First, we should be able to keep events that are likely to leave because they no longer have sufficient space in the Grimaldi Forum to ensure their growth. I’m talking about the bigger trade fairs.
This extension also implies new business opportunities for us: we do not currently have a reception area for galas, lunches or dinners for more than 1,000 people. When our two main spaces (Ravel and Diaghilev, 4,000 m2 each) are already occupied, the extension will solve this.
In addition, the ultra-modern nature of the Grimaldi Forum in terms of equipment makes us highly attractive to the IT sector, which requires large plenary meetings but also small group meetings. In this case, we need many rooms that we do not have in sufficient number.
The spaces that are developed through the extension of the Grimaldi Forum in the offshore extension, will be modular and versatile platforms. They will allow exhibitions, plenary meetings or the installation of committee rooms almost instantly by a system of movable partitions. We will therefore be able to host these events.
In terms of sustainable management, the Grimaldi Forum was a pioneering building 20 years ago, when it was created. The development of the eco-district is therefore fully in line with your operating principles.
That’s true. Eco-responsibility is in the DNA of the Grimaldi Forum. We must set an example. The event sector uses a lot of transport and generates a lot of waste.
We are fortunate to have a building whose designers have integrated energy consumption management into their design from the outset. For heating and air conditioning, for example, we have a geothermal loop. Since 2008 and the ISO 14001 building certification, we have made investments in the building.
Thanks to all these actions, we have reduced our energy consumption by 25%, multiplied our waste sorting capacity by 2.5 and divided our water consumption by 2.5 over the last 10 years. Whenever we can improve something, we do it.
The roof of the Grimaldi Forum covered with solar panels. Photo © MC Clic.
Finally, since 20th September 2019, we have also been the Principality’s leading solar energy production plant. In collaboration with the Prince’s Government, SMEG and the Groupement de l’Anse du Portier, the 2,500 m2 roof was equipped.
with photovoltaic cells, for an annual production of nearly 650 MWh. This is the annual equivalent of the consumption of 170 Monegasque households.