The SSE Hydro Arena

Norman Foster, along with his partners, attracts the spotlights of the architectural community once again through the mastery of designing the SSE Hydro Arena. Being the major entertainment venue for Scotland, the SSE Hydro is showcased alongside the Clyde auditorium at the northern edge of River Clyde. It is considered as an essential part of revitalizing the river docks of Glasgow, which remained abandoned for years. The arena formulates a new public plaza by the water’s edge and stands as a gateway to the new amusement hub.

Courtesy of Foster+Partners

Courtesy of Foster+Partners

The colossal interior of the arena encloses an area of 25,000 square meters, housing 12,500 seated and 13,000 standing audiences. The neo-modernist exterior shell harbors is a rather ancient style of seating arrangement inspired from the Roman amphitheaters. The combination of fixed, retractable and removable seats, rounding up the nuclear ‘Performance Bowl’, ensures an optimal view of the stage from any particular direction. The seats are custom designed by Foster+Partners in collaboration with Figueras International Seating.

Courtesy of Foster+Partners

Courtesy of Foster+Partners

The highly comfortable cushioned seats incorporate a width of 21 centimeters only, as they are upholstered as the ergonomic posture of a human backbone. Shock absorbent ‘Soft System’ introduced acoustic intelligence to the chairs, enabling them to block any bump or noise automatically. Different features of fixing enhanced the seats’ adaptability. Seats are primarily mounted with the beams but fixed differently based on area zoning. They are fixed to precast risers of tiers and to the concrete slab at the VIP areas. Angled concrete fins support the tilted seating bowl where free standing seats wrap around the stage, above ground level, and rises up to the front with an innovative system of linking rows. 1200 seats are accommodated on the telescopic riser whereas 3500 chairs stand alone.

Courtesy of Foster+Partners

Courtesy of Foster+Partners

The lightweight arena model offers abundant flexibility to seating rearrangements in order to organize a wide range of programs, from musical concerts to Olympic Games. The fixed seats on rails can be moved by slidings, depending on the requirements of a specific event.

A generous top-lit lobby receives the visitors from the south and leads towards a fully glazed, high-level secondary atrium where a panoramic view of the waterfront embraces the periphery. Furthermore, facilities initiate within the detailed indoors including a VIP floor for boxes and club seats. A bold palette of primary colors fire up the circulation spaces with youth, plotted in alliance with graphic designer Per Arnoldi.

Courtesy of Foster+Partners

Courtesy of Foster+Partners

Translucent fluorine-based plastic, ETFE panels swathe the elevation which can be controllably illuminated and used as a three-dimensional projection screen. The panels dazzle in the night sky with flashes of colors, like a lighthouse to the waterline.The dramatic framework of the façade floods the interior with passive daylight.

Foster+Partners says that “… the façade is more transparent to draw in natural light, animating the building with the movement of people and exposing the dramatic structure that supports the tiers of seating within. The spaces are protected from solar gain by a frit pattern, applied to the ETFE cushions”.

Courtesy of Foster+Partners

Courtesy of Foster+Partners

The shallow dome spans 120 meters, formed by a diagonally latticed framework of steel trusses. 1400 tons of steel configured the largest free-spanning roof of Europe which rises up to a peak of 45 meters. A ring of 260 tons is suspended from the dome to support the façade lighting. The changing colors of the lights outlines a mesmerizing aurora on the skin of the arena while keeping harmony with the ever changing skyline of Glasgow.

The energy efficient measures of the structure minimize the overall carbon footprints and the mechanized ventilation. Fresh air is drawn from above the entrance and vented at a high level. Ranked the 4th in the ‘Pollstar Top 100 Worldwide Arena Venues’, the building was opened with a concert of Rod Steward and held a number of events including netball matches and gymnastics during the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014.

Courtesy of Foster+Partners

Courtesy of Foster+Partners

Project Information:

Architect : Foster+Partners
Location : Glasgow, Scotland
Project Year : 2005-2013
Structural Engineer : Arup
M+E Engineer : Arup
Client : Scottish Exhibition Centre Ltd (SEC)

Leave a Reply