SSE Hydro’s tailored seating solution

October 28, 2013

Foster + Partners have collaborated with Figueras International Seating to create a tailored seating solution at SSE Hydro that accommodates up to 13,000 spectators.

Glasgow’s Clyde Waterfront is the historic waterside setting for the newly opened SSE Hydro, the recently opened stadium by Foster + Partners. The large-scale project is the product of eight years of construction and planning, resulting in a successful, functional contribution to the waterfront on both a social and cultural level. The multipurpose venue is a welcome addition to the area, providing a socially charged gathering space with a view to ultimately reviving the neglected shipping district.

Against the stark industrial background of abandoned shipyards, new constructions and expanses of concrete, the SSE Hydro emits an ever-changing display of light. The exterior of the building is ingeniously clad in EFTE, a durable, translucent polymer that allows for an exchange between the outside world and the activities within the stadium. This makes it possible for the stadium to connect to the public by projecting imagery and messages, creating a vibrant landmark and a focal point along the developing waterfront. Foster + Partners have designed SSE Hydro’s exterior façade to be able to respond to its setting while adding to it, establishing a “living” building with true personality.

SSE Hydro represents a culmination of considered design solutions and a true feat of architectural engineering. It stands 33 metres high, a substantial profile in the Glasgow skyline.  The stadium takes up 25,000m2, 20 times the size of an Olympic swimming pool. Its roof housing alone comprises 1,400 tonnes of steel, expertly formed into one of the largest domes in Europe. Lighting is rigged throughout the full circumference of the stadium, with a 260 tonne ring allowing for full customisation of lighting for each staged event. Every detail of its large-scale construction has been arranged to cater to a large variable audience, without compromising on the immersive quality of the spectator experience.



The true success of the SSE Hydro’s interior lies in the integration of ancient public design principles within a futuristic context. Foster + Partners have collaborated with Figueras International Seating in order to effectively re-imagine the structure of a Roman amphitheatre, creating a tailored seating solution that accommodates up to 13,000 spectators. Seating was designed by Figueras International to suit the many specifications of the SS Hydro brief: each seat had to be compact to facilitate easy access, upholstered for premium comfort, allow for flexibility within the space, and be considerate of acoustic impact to minimize the potential for distraction during events.

The final solution was a streamlined model, with a curved backrest and seat shaped to tuck into each other once folded for maximum space saving. The malleable system of beams, risers and freestanding seats are fully adaptable so that most units may be fixed to suit new arrangements depending on area and position. The seat itself is also designed to be functionally noise-sensitive, with a shock-absorbing “Soft System” closing action preventing any untimely thuds. These finer details offer a thoughtful point of difference at the SSE Hydro that many other such venues lack – the practical application of design innovations for the improvement of the end user’s experience.

The SSE Hydro reflects a changing landscape in modern Glasgow, and caters to a growing population of socially engaged citizens. By creating a place to enjoy international music, comedy and cultural events, Foster + Partners have provided Glasgow with a celebrated destination, and a dynamic hub of activity in a previously overlooked part of town.

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