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Auditorium Plans & Layout Guides

Auditorium Plans & Layout Guides

Posted by Trashcans Unlimited on 10th Nov 2020

A lot of engineering goes into the design of auditoriums. A part of that complexity is designing a usable and comfortable space to accommodate the needs of the audience and the performers. Lighting, seating, and trash can accessibility are all important factors in maintaining a safe and comfortable auditorium. TrashCans Unlimited offers an extensive selection of auditorium trash cans, and we’re here to discuss typical uses and designs for auditoriums, as well as the trash cans that fulfill their unique needs.

What is an auditorium?

An auditorium is a room designed to host a range of audio and/or visual performances and their audiences. They can be found in entertainment venues, schools, community halls, and theaters. They may be used for rehearsals, presentations, performing arts productions, or as a learning space.

Auditorium Designs

An auditorium may be designed for a playhouse with stages for dramatic performances, a concert hall with orchestras for musical performances, or a theater house consisting of screens to watch movies or presentations.

Forms of auditoriums include:

  • Lecture halls
  • Opera houses
  • Concert halls
  • Theaters
  • Playhouses

Characteristics to Consider When Designing Auditoriums

  • Whether the performances are audio, visual, or both
  • If the performances are live or recorded
  • The size of the audience

Parts of an Auditorium

Auditoriums come in many shapes and sizes, but designs typically consist of three main components:

  1. The main seating area
  2. The stage
  3. Support spaces

The Main Seating Area

The main seating area is where the bulk of the audience sits. Standard estimates are based around guidelines of approximately 18 sq. ft per person. This allows for aisle ways, sound and light control areas, and entryways that trap the light when late-comers arrive. Viewing angles are critical components of seating layouts; every seat should have a great one. Acoustical control is a science, and the use of 3D computer models is essential to develop the optimum “sound environment” when designing a seating area.

Auditorium Stage

The stage should be sized to accommodate the largest group expected to be featured. Assume that the typical stage is 30-35 feet deep with a proscenium opening of 40-50 feet wide, and up to 30 feet tall. The side stage should be at least half the size of the proscenium opening on each side. Ideally, access to the stage is handicap accessible. That can be accomplished by the construction of side aprons on the same level as the “cross-aisle.”

Auditorium Support Spaces

If the auditorium is where the heart and soul are, the support spaces are where the bones and guts of the operation are. This includes the front end which consists of the ticket booth, entrance vestibules, lobby, coat check, retail, and recessions. The front end support spaces make use of attractive or discreet designer trash cans in auditorium lobbies, and under counter trash cans for auditorium staff.

The backend consists of storage rooms, dressing rooms, a “green room” which can double as rehearsal and instructional space, set construction areas, and equipment rooms. Computer-controlled stage rigging and LED theatrical lighting have become standards in most performance venues, so making sure that room for their storage and operation are part of your design will ensure that your theater is up to modern standards. The backend support spaces benefit from commercial grade trash cans, or trash cans with wheels for maximum flexibility. The support spaces are where a lot of action goes down and they need to be kept clean and tidy, which is why benefit from having large and durable indoor commercial trash cans and recycling bins.

Considerations in Auditorium Seating Design

The overall design of the auditorium is determined by the audience size and form of stage, which are both determined by the type of performance.

Auditorium Dimensions & Layout

Dimensions can get tricky, but a good rule of thumb is arranging the size of the auditorium around the type of performance and the number of audience members you plan to seat:

  • 200 seats: 270m² | 2,900 ft2
  • 150 seats: 190m² | 2,000 ft2
  • 75 seats: 125 m² | 1,350 ft2

Floor Design

Whether the floor is sloped or level is an important part of auditorium seating design. Many auditoriums use raked seating, which is positioned on an upwards slope away from the stage, in order to give the audience a better view than if the seats were all on the same level.

When designing a floor space for a theater, consider:

  • The impact of both row spacing and the sightline of the audience
  • Tier depth
  • Tier height
  • Numbers of aisles
  • Aisle width
  • Slope degree
  • Any form of construction that might block your audience’s view

Steeper Ascending Seating

Auditoriums with steeper ascending seating gives each audience member a better view of the stage. Steeper seating also creates a greater sense of drama, with the seats in front sloping away to reveal the action unfolding on stage.

Shallow Ascending Seating

When it comes to seminars and audience participation, like one could expect in college lecture halls or business conferences, shallowly ascending seating is considered superior to steeper options because it puts everyone closer to being on the same level to allow for easier communication. This kind of intimacy is not ideal for the drama that concert halls or playhouses call for.

Auditoriums with shallow ascending seating typically have audiences that bring beverages or snacks with them, and paper to take notes. This means shallow ascending seating auditoriums frequently benefit from having multiple recycling bins and trash cans, that are strategically placed by all doors, because audience members need a convenient place to dispose of their items.


With sightlines, you want an unobstructed view between your audience and the speaker or presentation on stage. Consider viewing angles from the most extremely positioned seats in the theater to ensure maximum viewing quality.

Vertical Sightlines

Auditoriums should aim for ‘every other row sightline’ which means that the view of a patron in one row should have a completely unobstructed view of the stage over the head of patrons in seats at least two rows in front of them.

Horizontal Sightlines

Ensure that the extreme seats have a viewpoint that includes three-quarters of the stage and the wall behind the stage. With auditoriums that frequently have dance performances, the audience expects to see the dancers’ feet, no matter what row they’re in. If the auditorium is for other types of performance, this might not be as important.

Seat Design Aspects to Consider

When designing the seating for your auditorium or theater, these are the cardinal rules

to achieve an optimal balance:

between three principles:


  1. Clear audience view and acoustic quality
  2. The audience’s comfort and safety
  3. Maximum occupancy for maximum sales

Seat Width

Seat width is the gap between the final seat in the row and the stairs, as well as the distance between each audience member in a row. Seats should snugly fit in all gaps.

Row Spacing

The clearance between each row of seats is critically important to both audience safety and comfort, as well as the seating capacity and profitability of an auditorium.

Americans with Disabilities (ADA)-Compliant Seats

Additional regulations to remember are ADA-compliant seats, which are designed for people with restricted mobility and are usually located closest to the aisle. ADA-compliant seats are legally required to feature flip-up or side-open end arms (for easier access), and they always feature the ADA seat mark. The minimum widths for a wheelchair space are:

  • 36” (915mm) for a single wheelchair
  • 33” (840mm) for two adjacent wheelchairs

The minimum depths for a wheelchair space are:

  • 48” (1220mm) for front or rear access
  • 60” (1525mm) for side access

In addition to auditorium seating, there are many guidelines for how to accommodate all guests in all parts of the building, including ticketing practices, which can be found on the websites for National Endowment for the ArtsOffice of Accessibility, and the National Association Of Theatre Owners.

Auditorium Seating Layouts

In the world of auditorium design, there are three main styles of seating arrangements, multiple aisle, continental, and wide fan. Variations of the three main forms accommodate different stages.

Multiple Aisle Auditorium Seating

Multiple aisle seating is a more formal setup, suitable for lecture halls and business conferences. Seat count can vary, typically you want a maximum of 14-16 chairs per row.

Continental Auditorium Seating

Continental seating is a good use of space and is the preferred choice for open space auditoriums and amphitheaters. Having all seats turned toward and arranged in a concave shape toward the central arena increases intimacy between performer and audience. 

Wide Fan Auditorium Seating

Wide fan auditoriums bring the audience up close and personal, but limits the usage of a stage to mostly speech-related activity.

Horseshoe Auditorium

A horseshoe auditorium is popular in many entertainment venues in combination with a proscenium stage. It was common in Baroque theater design for ballet, masques, and opera performances, and is still popular in theaters and auditoriums today, including the Auditorium Building in Chicago.


Vineyard Auditorium

Beyond the three main categories of auditorium seating design, other seating arrangements are variants of the main three categories to accommodate the stage and surrounding space. One of the most dramatic variants of auditorium design is the vineyard seating, which surrounds an arena stage style. Vineyard seating is popular in concert halls, like the Berlin Philharmonic.

Stage Designs

The style of stage in an auditorium is determined by the type of performance, which in conjunction, determines the seating arrangement.

Arena / Theater-in-the-round / Island Stage

A central stage surrounded by the audience on all sides, these styles of stage are some of the best for sightlines. An example of an arena stage in an auditorium is the Glenn Hughes Penthouse Theatre in Seattle Washington, which was the first theater-in-the-round venue built in the US.

3/4 Arena Stage

Typically used for open space theaters, the ¾ arena stage is frequently paired with a continental seating arrangement. These stages closely resemble amphitheaters and thrust stages, and arecseful for musical concerts and plays, as it offers great sight and aural clarity to the audience.

End Stage

These styles of stage utilize space effectively and are an excellent choice for lecture halls and film presentations. The seating arrangement is usually multiple aisles, ideal for small spaces

However, this is not the most intimate method of staging, so not as great for performances that require that level of intimacy.

Proscenium Stage

A proscenium stage resembles an end stage, with the addition of the proscenium arch through which the audience views the performance. The audience directly faces the stage and views only one side of the scene. Often, a stage may extend in front of the proscenium arch which offers additional playing area to the actors. This area is referred to as the apron. Underneath and in front of the apron is sometimes an orchestra pit which is used by musicians during musicals and operas.

Thrust Stage

A stage that “thrusts'' the performers into the audience for a greater sense of intimacy and drama, which is achieved by seating the audience on three sides of the stage. Usually thrust stages are in a square performance area, surrounded by raked seating.

Flexible Theater / Black Box Theater

Black box theaters are usually created in “found” or converted spaces, with big empty boxes painted black to create an auditorium-like space. Neither the stage nor the seating is fixed, so the theater can be altered to meet the whims of the director.

Traverse / Alley / Corridor Stage or Profile Theater

The audience is on two sides of the stage, facing towards each other. This style of theater is usually in a “found” or converted space. Some of these stages require the performers to be staged in profile to the audience so it doesn't become uncomfortable. A non-theatrical form of the profile stage is a basketball arena, if no one is seated behind the hoops. Smaller auditoriums such as these benefit from smaller and low-profile auditorium trash cans that don’t take up much space.

Auditorium Design & Trash Cans

Designing and auditorium can be complicated, but TrashCans Unlimited makes sourcing high quality and attractive auditorium trash cans is easy. Hopefully, this gives you a sense of how auditoriums are planned and layed out. No matter the design of the auditorium, we have the trash can to fill its needs— whether it’s auditorium recycling bins or commercial indoor trash cans. Get in touch, and start your order today!