Diverse use of stadiums and arenas pushes need for a new seating model


New seating model - Figueras

Sports stadiums are becoming increasingly multi-purpose, capable of hosting events of all kinds, from sporting occasions to rock concerts. While the features of these large sites were traditionally used for the holding of any large-scale event, nowadays their multi-purpose nature is considered as a key factor in their design and construction from the very outset. Foster + Partners and Figueras reinvent
seats for leisure and sport areas.

Architectural firms are designing areas with substantial character, a wide range of uses and with safety in mind. For an area with these characteristics, a facade capable of winning major architecture prizes is as important as a well-organised interior, good visibility, high safety standards and comfort.

If stadiums and arenas are changing their uses and purposes, why shouldn’t seats do the same? New areas demand new high-performance seats, with a design that is adapted to its setting. They must also retain their weather-resistant and intensive-use components as well as their extraordinary safety characteristics. Imagine a design created by the architect of the arena or stadium itself. The end result could be an extraordinary seat.

A success story: The Arena seat for the SSE Hydro by Foster + Partners

Name: SSE Hydro
Location: Glasgow, the United Kingdom
Architecture: Foster + Partners
Owner: Scottish Exhibition Centre Ltd (SEC)
Structural Engineer: Arup
Height: 33m
Total Area: 25,000 m2
Capacity: 12,665 seats
Product: Arena

The Hydro Arena is a surprising building, both in terms of its design and use. The building completes the Glasgow Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre and is the new multi-purpose venue used to hold events and sporting occasions in the city.

When Foster + Partners began the design of what is now the SSE Hydro Arena (Glasgow, the United Kingdom), they immediately decided that the 12,500 seats were a very important consideration in terms of the interior design of the venue. This led to their design together with Figueras International Seating of a special seat.

The seat required by this multi-purpose arena needed to include several components. It had to be an extraordinarily comfortable seat, suitable for events of all kinds. It also had to be a seat that would not take up too much space, with a ground-breaking design enabling a range of seating layouts to be accomodated in the arena.

A project of this size required a seat that would perfectly match its interior design. Using the designs by Foster + Partners as a starting point, and thanks to the close cooperation of the Figueras design team and the team of architects, a sporting seat was designed that perfectly suited the internal architecture of the venue, that provides personality to the venue and comfort and safety to users.

A high-performance sporting model

Based on the drafts by Foster + Partners, the Figueras Design Centre created a unique model using blow moulding, a technology that is not traditionally used for sporting seats. Unlike the injected plastic seats that are more common in sporting stadiums, blow moulding allows the creation of more individual shapes, the creation of a finished product with a sturdy body that is attractive from all sides, in other words, the perfect technology for the customising of a seat by architects.

Now that the shape limitations were eliminated, the team worked on achieving the design required by Norman Foster, namely a very compact seat, with an elegant rectangular shape, but with rounded edges and a slightly curved profile, that manages to create a dynamic overall effect.

The folding seat occupies only 21cm, thanks to the fact that the seat fits perfectly into the seat back, thereby preventing dirt entering inside. Despite its size, this is a very comfortable, upholstered model once folded out. The distance between the axles of the seats is 50cm, although this distance is adjustable, as the number of seats per row can be changed. The closing movement of the seat has been designed with the application of the ‘Soft System’ cushioning of Figueras that eliminates bangs and noises.

A seat that adapts to different kinds of anchor points

Each part of a stadium has different functions and seats must be therefore able to adapt to each of them. While the solution sometimes becomes a matter of choosing different seats for different areas, in this specific case Foster + Partners came up with a design where the same seat adapts each area. This was done in order to achieve aesthetic consistency.

At the SSE Hydro, the Arena seat adapts to each area of the venue through the use of different anchoring characteristics. All of the seats are mounted onto a bar, but in the grandstands they are attached to a riser, while in the VIP area they are fixed directly to the floor and in the general admission area they are free standing, using an innovative attachment system (Matrix) that eliminates ‘sneaking’.

There is also a 1,200-seat telescopic tribune system in the arena of the SSE Hydro, which makes it possible to increase the capacity considerably. The fact that the seats are mounted onto a bar does not reduce this model’s adaptability, as even in curved areas the seats adapts perfectly to the area’s radius. The Arena model is very light and the bar-mounted seats can easily be moved along it in order to change the distance between them according to the needs of each event and to change the capacity.

Figueras seating


Plan of the SSE Hydro Arena
Brown: Standard seats
Pink: Club Seats
Blue: Free Standing Seats
Red: Telescopic tribune

A durable product that meets the very highest safety standards

The Arena seat is a product that besides being attractive and comfortable is also highly durable and safe. Flame-retardant covering can be added in the case of indoor facilities, therefore complying with the most rigorous safety standards of any country. The external additives include anti-UV agents so that there are no changes in colour caused by solar rays. The optional upholstery is made of materials that also guarantee great durability.

The seat has a safety system that ensures that the closing mechanism cannot injure its occupants. Thanks to the automatic folding system, the mechanism is also protected from external elements and therefore does not require maintenance. The seat has been subjected to resistance and impact tests that guarantee its mechanical resistance.

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