Convention centers using flexible seating arrangements

 Tuesday, June 20, 2023 


Technology plays an important role in keeping the convention centres ahead of the curve. As per the survey by International Association of Conference Centers (IACC), about 52 per cent of respondents gave emphasis to flexible meeting space. So, what is this convertible seating arrangement and how is it going to help the event planners?

Seating arrangement transformation in various combinations is made possible by various cutting-edge systems. The seats can be moved up and down; forward and backward. The rows can be made to sink in and stored under the adjacent area. Alternatively, the rows can be raised where the seats are flipped and rotated to make alternative configuration possible. For example, Gala systems Stage Lifts run at 0.3 m/sec. (60 ft/min.) in a quiet and smooth manner.  Here are few convention centres that have utilised the technology of moving floors to the hilt.

The Swiss Tech Convention Center

The Swiss Tech Convention Center, which opened in Lake Geneva region of Lausanne, Switzerland in 2014, is one of the fitting examples to understand the convertible seating arrangement. It uses Gala Venue technology and a sliding wall system to convert a tiered seating arrangement into a flat ballroom. It allows combining three meeting spaces into one. The number of seats in each room can also be changed in just a few minutes. It is this adaptable capacity that sets the Swiss Tech Convention Center apart from other convention centres.

This centre has a total of 3,000 seats out of which 2,300 are transformable. It employs two large stage lifts and movable walls.

It uses the technology from the GALA Systems including the Stage Lift systems to flip an auditorium from a tiered seating arrangement to a flat floor. The chairs are lifted into the air, rotated and pushed down under the floor.  This change in configuration takes 15 minutes.

The full conference auditorium of the centre can be automatically reconfigured into half while the other half can be a seminar room or an exhibition hall or a banquet room. Each seat is fitted with a keypad system and power plug to power the change.

Melbourne Convention And Exhibition Centre

The Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) comprise two adjacent buildings next to the Yarra River in South Wharf, Victoria, Australia.

The Melbourne Exhibition Centre is a pillar-less floor space of 30,000 square metres, making it one of the largest spaces in the Southern Hemisphere. It can host thousands of large exhibitions.

Its new convention centre built at a cost of Australian Dollar 1 billion consists of a 5541-seat Plenary Hall. This new centre achieved a 6-star, Green Star environmental rating and was awarded with the Australian Construction Achievement Award in 2010.

MCEC Plenary Hall too has an automatic flexible seating arrangement. About 1,600 seats can be configured in less than an hour. 42 independent seating rows can be raised, lowered, and set in tiered formation or in flat floors with many combinations in between. There are four or five transformations per week with satisfactory speed and versatility.

Edinburgh International Conference Centre

EICC opened in 1995 and it caters to around 200,000 delegates every year. It contributes 60 m pounds in revenue for the City of Edinburgh. It has Lennox Suite a multipurpose hall (1,600 m2) with 21 platforms. Its 2,000 seats can be converted into a different configuration — a raked auditorium, a central stage arena and a tiered cabaret configuration. The floors can be moved such that the hall can be divided into 3 different ones. The flexible flooring is supported by 200 stainless steel ‘Spiralift’ columns. ‘Almost anything is possible’ – the configuration of the event space could range from a raked auditorium, tiered banquet, flat floor banquet hall, or centre stage arena. The space can be divided into three separate rooms.

Some other notable convention centres that have deployed this technology to weave in flexibility are Baku International Conference Centre in Caucasus, and ICE Krakow Congress Centre in Poland and others.

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