The amphitheatre's distinctive elliptical sloping shape offers the optimum balance of viewing angle and distance from the stage

High-tech Scottish arena opens to public

Scotland’s largest purpose-built public event arena, which boasts an array of innovative technologies, has opened to the public.

The £125m SSE Hydro on the northern bank of the River Clyde within Glasgow’s former docks, which can hold up to 13,000 people, played host to a concert by Rod Stewart last night.

Featuring a state-of-the-art lighting, energy saving ventilation systems and a unique ETFE (Ethylene Tetrafluroethylene) façade the venue can accommodate a wide variety of concerts and stage sets and can be configured as a sporting venue to host netball and gymnastics during Glasgow’s 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Martin Surridge, project director for Arup who provided structural, mechanical, electrical, civil, public health and fire engineering for the project, said: “This is probably one of the most complex buildings ever constructed in Scotland but definitely one of the most rewarding.

“The SSE Hydro will provide Glasgow with an exciting new landmark and position Scotland at the forefront of the global events and entertainment industry. We’re proud to be part of the team that's brought this landmark building to life.”

The building was designed by Foster + Partners for The Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC) to join the Clyde Auditorium, also designed by Foster + Partners and engineered by Arup, on the site of the former Queen’s Dock.

The building combines natural and mechanical ventilation with fresh air drawn into the building above the entrances and vented at a high level  The seating bowl is shaped like an amphitheatre, enclosed by a lattice steel roof and wrapped in translucent ETFE cushions, originally developed for the space industry, which allow natural light to illuminate the foyers during the day and are lit by thousands of LEDs at night to make the arena glow.

The 1,400 tonne steel diagrid roof, one of Europe’s largest free-spanning roof structures, is held aloft by a circular array of angled concrete fins, which support a tilted seating bowl, designed to draw the audience close to the stage and provide the best possible viewing angles from every seat.

The entire building can function as a huge screen for projections, and every aspect of the state-of-the-art lighting system can be programmed, allowing performers freedom to shape the venue, inside and out. Inside the seating bowl, the stage circular lighting rig weighs 260 tonnes.

Spencer de Grey, head of design for Foster + Partners, said: “With its vast steel roof and capacity for 13,000, this is the largest performance arena that the practice has designed. Operationally, it allows performers a great deal of freedom in staging events, and visually, its form helps to capture the excitement of a concert.”

Around the perimeter of the performance bowl the façade is more transparent to draw in natural light, but the spaces are protected from solar gain, the increase in temperature in a space caused by sunlight, by a frit pattern applied to the ETFE cushions.

The building also combines natural and mechanical ventilation to reduce energy demands – fresh air is drawn into the building above the entrances, and vented at a high level.

Tom Doyle, project director for the SSE Hydro’s owners and operators, SECC said: “The construction of The SSE Hydro’s distinctive roof and ETFE façade, lit by thousands of LED lights, are two of the key features of the building.

“They are prime examples of the innovative spirit and engineering expertise that the Arup team have consistently demonstrated over the many years they have been working on this project.”

The ETFE fa�ade is lit by thousands of LEDs at night

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