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Seating Configurations In An Auditorium

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    Seating Configurations In An Auditorium

    The configuration of the seating in your auditorium is a major factor in capacity, comfort, and the overall experience for your patrons. There’s a lot to consider when it comes to the seating configuration of your auditorium, so we’ve got the basics laid out here to help get you started.

    1. Stage Type

    Understanding the stage type in the auditorium will help determine a general idea of the layout needed for the space function and patrons comfort. There are several different types of stages, the most popular seen in auditoriums:

    Proscenium Stage
    • Considered the typical "theatre stage." This stage is most popular in historic venues.
    • Generally framed or has an arch that leads to the stage. Also typically includes an orchestra pit.
    • The audience sits directly in front of the stage.
    • As basic as a raised platform at the end of a room.
    • Similar to a proscenium stage without the extra adornments. 
    • The audience sits directly in front of the stage.
    Thrust Stage
    • The audience sits on 3 sides of the stage.
    • Creates a more intimate feel between the performers and the audience. 
    • A popular design in worship spaces. 
    1. Types Of Configurations

    There are three types of seating configurations for auditorium:

    • Straight Row
    • Continental Seating
    • Multiple Aisle Seating

    Straight Row

    Straight row seating is the most basic seating configuration and is commonly found in historic spaces. Seats are aligned in straight rows with no chair stagger. Floors in these layouts can be level, sloped, or include risers.


    This configuration is generally unpopular in new construction due to sightline issues. However, this doesn't mean it isn't used. Very small spaces wanting to maximize chair quantity will sometimes use the layout, along with historic venues that often preserve the original seating configurations.

    Continental Seating

    A continental seating configuration will arrange chairs in the large bank with two side aisles. Chairs are staggered and maybe on a radius, but there is no centre aisle(s).

    This type of seating has also fallen out of use with awareness of patron comfort and changes to safety regulations. Continental seating is often paired with a proscenium and is generally used with historic performance halls. Historic code for these spaces dictates that rows cannot exceed 99 chairs, and there can be no more than 49 chairs per aisle. For safety, there must also be exits at the end of rows with a ratio of one exit per five rows. The clear passage also increases with row length; the maximum is 24 inches of clear passage, but shorter rows would allow for less clear passage.

    Multiple Aisle Seating

    Multiple aisle seating uses any combination of straight row and continental seating, as well as sloped floors, risers, chair stagger, and radii. For example, the front rows may be arranged on a flat surface, but rows further back on are sloped or on risers. Or, as is common in places of worship, seats are arranged in banks of straight rows, but the banks are angled toward the stage.

    Multiple aisle design allows the space to offer each patron the best comfort and view from any seat. Generally paired with a Trust stage, the audience will also feel closer to the performance or speaker, sharing a more intimate experience. If you’re planning a mixed design in a new space, it’s important to account for that design before concrete is poured. A seating layout engineer can help you make the most of a predetermined space.

    1. Sight Lines

    Sightlines are the view from eye level to the focal point of the stage or screen. Obstructed sightlines equal a poor patron experience, so it’s important to consider the view from every seat in the house.

    Sightlines rely on the focal point in many spaces. For a performance theatre, patrons need to be able to see the entire stage or screen. However, if space is dedicated for speakers, like a place of worship, patrons will be more focused on the speakers’ face and may not need to see the stage floor. 


    Safety Codes

    Safety is also a priority in all spaces. For auditoriums, this means an appropriate number of exits with easy access as well as assistive features like handrails and safe ranges for floor slope, aisle widths, and riser height.

    Safety codes can also vary by location, and seating providers rely on the architect to communicate the safety code for their location. While there is a general understanding of what is and is not safe for patrons, detailed code restrictions are necessary to adhere to local or state law.