Help with Planning and Choosing Lecture Theatre Seating
Lecture theatre seating can be found in a range of different educational establishments from colleges and universities to hotel conference facilities as well as purpose-built training centres. If you’re a Venue or Estates Manager tasked with sourcing lecture theatre seating for a new or existing facility, here you’ll find some useful advice to help you through the process.
When planning the layout and sourcing new lecture theatre seating it’s important to consider the following factors:
- minimum number of people the space needs to accommodate
- usage requirements of room
- teaching/learning style to be employed
- student/delegate sightlines
- regulations in terms of row spacing, walkways, number of aisles and exits
- disability and wheelchair access
- type of ambience desired
- corporate image or colour scheme
These factors relate specifically to the lecture theatre seating and are what we will focus on in this article. Acoustics and lighting are also key elements which it is recommended you consult a specialist on.
Facilitate Effective Teaching and Learning
First of all, it’s essential you know the minimum number of people the space needs to accommodate and how the room will be used. This basic information will initially help you determine which type of seating is most appropriate and the most suitable configuration to facilitate effective teaching and learning.
For example, in a small multi-purpose conference facility it may be appropriate to use individual loose chairs and tables which can easily be moved around and reconfigured to suit the needs of different users whereas fixed auditorium seating is ideal for university lecture theatres with high frequency usage.
You also need to consider the requirements of the subjects to be taught in the space to determine what type of desks or writing tablets will be most appropriate.
This higher education teaching space is fitted with fixed lecture theatre seating which incorporates rows of fixed desks. These offer ample space for students to make notes, refer to textbooks or use laptops or other tech.
The chairs in this lecture theatre are fitted with writing tablets which fold-away into the arm when not in use. This is ideal in multi-purpose venues where a table may not always be required.
Lecture theatre seating configuration
The three most popular layouts in a tiered auditorium are with the seats all facing forward in either straight, angled or curved rows. Any of these configurations are suitable where a lecturer or trainer will stand at the front and teach whilst the audience sits and listens but if regular collaboration is required between teacher and student or amongst students themselves then curved or angled rows are more suitable. These allow easier interaction and give students better visibility when one of their counterparts is talking.
The importance of good sightlines cannot be under estimated as students will obviously be more receptive if they can clearly see and hear the teacher and the information being presented to them. In large auditoria a tiered floor is an advisable solution to facilitate this but it’s also something to consider in smaller spaces. Tiering is usually tailor made to fit each room and choice of lecture theatre seating and to incorporate all required underfloor services.
This view underneath the tiering in a large lecture theatre shows the support structure and underfloor services.
Even in a small room a low tiered floor raises each level of seating to optimise sightlines.
Many seating manufacturers can also design and install a tiered floor for you and it’s often advisable to use one supplier for both the tiering and seating to avoid any potential problems when it comes to the installation.
Designing a seating plan
Once you’ve considered what is the most suitable style of seating you will need to plan the layout to ensure you can fit the required number of seats in the space. If you’ve not got the luxury of an architect or designer to do this for you, you will find that many seating suppliers will provide this service free of charge when you obtain a quotation from them.
If you opt to create a seating plan yourself it’s essential you understand what the current regulations are regarding fire safety so that the spacing between rows and the number of aisles and walkways comply.
You will also need to ensure the room has suitable disability access and that there is space for wheelchairs within the seating plan. There are a few options here and you can either have permanent wheelchair positions available or incorporate removable banks of lecture theatre seating which can be taken away when you know wheelchair users will be present.
In a lecture theatre with a tiered floor the location of wheelchair positions is usually dictated by the access point to the room which is usually either on the bottom or top tier.
Seating comfort and quality
As lectures will usually last several hours and conferences often a lot longer, it’s vital to ensure the seating you choose is both robust to withstand high frequency usage, and comfortable. Discomfort is one of the main causes of distraction during a lecture or training session as students’ attention is turned to changing their position within their chair and shuffling around to try and get comfortable. This in turn distracts those around them and so does not make for a conducive learning environment.
If possible, ask potential seating suppliers if you can borrow a seat to test out or at least see a sample. You may also be able to visit a venue close by where your preferred style of seating is in use.
Creating the right style and ambience
Once you’ve found the right seating you will need to choose an upholstery fabric and colours. You may have a colour scheme you need to work to or corporate colours you need to match and whilst there is an endless supply of fabrics on the market your seating supplier can advise which ones are most suitable for a lecture theatre and supply you with swatches to help you choose.
Fabric colour really is key when it comes to setting a tone so think about what type of ambience you want to create and how different colours might work in the space. Our article on How to Create Different Looks in a Lecture Theatre with the Diploma Seat is a useful reference to see how different fabric colours can help project dramatically different styles in a range of lecture theatres which all use the same seat design.
Evertaut is a leading UK manufacturer and supplier of lecture theatre seating with over 80 years’ experience in the commercial seating industry. For advice on choosing lecture theatre seating and designing a seating plan, please complete and submit the enquiry form below.