auditorium room design tips

Intentional design is important for any auditorium or performance venue. When designing spaces, architects and designers are required to maximize useable area and enhance that space with unique design features, which often requires following specific acoustical and physical rules.

We at Spire AVL consider auditorium architectural design to embody the principles of art and science. Performance space design and refinement thrives on imagination and strict adherence to physics regarding acoustics. A well-designed auditorium space can take many forms but each form should be analyzed to ensure that a usable space is being created.

We’ve designed a vast array of auditorium, performance, and worship spaces. Each space began as a thought. Through the process of collaborative design, we can bring your auditorium ideas to life. If you already cradle a spark of inspiration in your mind, we’ll help you transform that subtle thought into an explicit plan.

Prepare to begin thinking about auditorium design in an entirely new way. We’ll cover the basics on how to design a good auditorium, how to improve acoustics in an existing auditorium, and how we approach each new project with the mindset of auditorium enhancement.

Multi-Purpose Spaces

Designing the perfect space depends on your needs. Ask yourself which types of activities and performances you will host. Some auditorium spaces today accommodate a variety of uses within the same form factor. Many events require similar facilities.  For example, if a stage and audience seating can remain fixed throughout all uses, then a desirable and purposeful acoustical experience can be more intentionally designed.  A fully equipped auditorium offers a high level of crossover potential for events but keeps the structure of the space unchanged.

When considering features for your space, you also don’t want to go overboard. Consider what purposes the space will serve. Keeping the variety of uses down will help to achieve a purposeful space with less room for error in acoustical design.  What type of space and events will you need?

There are several common types of spaces. As you will see, they each reflect the requirements for their intended purposes. 

Smaller Schools

Every school needs a functional auditorium. This space often doubles as a gym. Smaller schools especially need to economize their available space. Using a gym as a performance space works as long as you take into account certain design criteria. Adding dimmable lighting, designing the acoustics, adding a permanent or removable stage, and intentionally determined AV components will turn a gym into a multi-purpose performance space. A fully equipped gym will allow your school to provide students with a space for:

  • Plays
  • Concerts
  • Sports competitions
  • Speaker presentations


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Higher Education

High schools and universities require an independent auditorium due to the amount of time that the art department and athletic department need in order to meet their demanding curriculum requirements. Every college needs at least one significantly sized auditorium. Popular events and guest speakers generate excitement and draw crowds in universities. A modern, functional and technologically equipped auditorium is vital for maintaining the image of any prestigious school. These spaces are designed to host speaking events, concerts, plays, student entertainment, and more.

For instance, Eisenhower Auditorium at the Pennsylvania State University in University Park, Pennsylvania, hosts a wide range of event types.  The auditorium seats 2,595 people and is a prime example of a multi-purpose performance hall. The space allows enough intimacy to present touring musical theatre productions, yet large enough to host a full symphony.  The design of this venue allows for multiple uses and maximum flexibility.

Other performance venues on university campuses are less conventional.  For instance, the EagleBank Arena located at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, showcases a variety of performance types. This 10,000-seat venue hosts the university’s basketball team games, the commencement ceremonies, rock concert acts like Bruce Springsteen, the Harlem Globetrotters and even Disney on Ice. With the investment of a state-of-the-art auditorium of any size, your institution will gain the ability to host entertaining and functional events.

Places of Worship

Churches require a set of specific considerations. For church auditoriums, for example, audio and acoustics are pinnacle for creating an inviting atmosphere for worship. The best worship experience is one where technology is transparent yet discreet and communication is clear.

If you anticipate a need for overflow seating during the holiday season or other significant events, you might need to consider using audio/visual equipment to carry your message or performance to another area of your building or campus.  If you’re planning a new campus, as a basis you should meet this overflow need by properly designing a space for overflow so that attendees can still have a meaningful worship experience even though they are outside of the live venue.

Church youth rooms can also benefit from thoughtful acoustic design and proper audio/visual equipment. Youth centers are often a hub for a myriad of events. From youth group events where you might be playing basketball or ice breaker games with kids running around and a half hour later you’re setting up to hear a guest speaker, who might also want to show video. From games to guests, AV equipment and good acoustic considerations are crucial to get the best use out of this space.

By updating the auditorium acoustics and architectural design in your church’s multipurpose spaces, you can be sure the space is ready for whatever you plan. Whether you envision better acoustics, rigging and curtains, theatrical lighting or AV presentation capabilities, we have you covered. We’ve crafted custom designs for many houses of worship in Pennsylvania and beyond. Feel free to check out some of our past work.

Community Spaces

Community spaces thrive on versatility. It’s wise to equip your space with everything it needs to cover any requirement. You’ll need audio amplification in the form of a microphone and speaker installation for game nights, lectures and performances. A community space also offers a place to put on events geared toward seniors.

auditorium room design community spaces

Games or movie nights serve an excellent purpose to bring people of all ages together. Community spaces also frequently host political speakers and town hall-style debates. For many towns, the community center stands as the nexus of community activity. It’s worth investing in a space that will increase community involvement and spirit.  

The Importance of Auditorium Acoustics

Crafting the ideal auditorium acoustics requires a degree of balance. Spacious auditoriums need careful consideration of how the sound will react with the environment. You want a lively sound that is large, close and natural, all at once.

In many ways, a space functions like an instrument. A guitar, piano and harp all exude sound based on the reverberation of sound projecting from the wooden body. The shape of the body helps form the sound, like your mouth shapes words.

The other consideration of a space, like an instrument, involves dampening and enhancing the sound. Picture the soft and sustained pedals on a piano. They cultivate the natural sound reverberating from the piano’s body. Like a piano’s pedals, special panels help nurture the sound in an auditorium. The two main factors these panels address are sound absorption and diffusion.

Improving Acoustics in Your Auditorium: How Absorption and Diffusion Panels Work

Absorption and diffusion panels are affixed to the walls in an auditorium. You’ve likely noticed them before. Perhaps you thought they constituted a stylistic design feature. To a certain degree, they do. Besides adding a certain grandiose flair to an auditorium, they actually perform a vital role in determining the sound quality.

Absorption and diffusion panels work differently. To compare, let’s start with absorption panels:

  • Absorption panels soak up unwanted sound reverberations. This limits the amount of noise.
  • Absorption panels often work well in smaller spaces where echo presents less of a factor. In larger auditoriums, absorption panels help reduce deeper, unwanted bass sounds.


Diffusion panels deconstruct and redistribute sound mainly to reduce echo. If you clap in an auditorium with no diffusion panels, you get a mighty loud echo at a later delay time. This happens because the sound bounces off the walls, taking longer to reach your ears, resulting in that trademark echo. To prevent echo, diffusion panels create a surface that scatters the sound, so the echo dissolves into the air. With no localized point for the sound to reflect off the wall, the waves fracture outward and the echo becomes inaudible.

Diffusion panels also fool your brain into thinking the space sounds larger. After the sound waves split into multiple paths, they take a different amount of time to reach you. Their intensity and final direction also differ. This results in a lush, textured sound, which gives the original sound a richness not formerly possessed. This increased density, accrued from diffused echo, makes a space sound bigger and better.  When studio artists are trying to replicate this sound in recordings, they sometimes refer to this as the “Concert Hall” effect.

Absorption and diffusion panels often work in harmony to craft the perfect acoustic environment. The placement, type, size and amount of each depend on the space at hand and the purpose required. However, to create the ideal auditorium environment, you need more than just auditory panels.

Spatial Design and Acoustical Characteristics for Performance Venues

When designers are planning performance venues, they consider some spatial rules of thumb regarding various areas of the performance venue.  Main areas in a performance hall include the stage, the main floor arena, balconies, mezzanines, the orchestra, and the theatre envelope. When designing a performance venue, many acoustical characteristics are considered.

Intimacy and Presence

In an intimate hall, music sounds as though it is being played in a smaller space.  There is an immediate presence to the sound even at the rear of the space.  The quality of intimacy and presence relate directly to the time differential between the arrival of the direct sound of the orchestra emanating from the stage and the receipt of the first reflection from a wall surface or an intentionally positioned reflector overhead.  This time differential is called the Initial Time Delay Gap (ITDG).

Liveness and Envelopment

A live space is usually composed of hard, dense walls, floors, and ceiling surfaces.  It allows the sound of a live band or orchestra to travel throughout the entire space and then surround the audience 360-degree sonic envelope. A live concert space should have a decay time of 1.8 to 2.1 seconds, balanced with corresponding short initial time delay gap.  A space with too long a decay time and a long ITDG will result in a muddy and unclear sound.


This is a subjective response, and relates to the reverberation times of low frequencies (250 Hz for less). In a warm performance space, these times will be longer than the reverberation times of middle frequencies. The ratio of mid-frequency reverberation times is called the bass ratio, and a warm hall will have a bass ratio of 1 or greater.


Loudness depends on the loudness of direct sound, and the loudness of the reverberant sound. This characteristic takes into account the relationship between Intimacy and Presence, as well as Liveness and Envelopment.

Clarity and Definition

A hall with clarity and definition enables listeners to hear the complex strands in of the orchestra as well as the inner voices of thickly scored symphonic passages. Clarity relates closely to presence and intimacy and depends on the early arrival time of the first reflection in the space.


Brilliance refers to the reverberation times at high frequencies compared to those at lower frequencies.  The longer the reverberation times at high frequencies, the more Brilliance a space has. Additionally, the more Brilliance in a space, the less Warmth there is in that space.

Creating Atmosphere: Lighting in Auditoriums & Multi-Purpose Spaces

A major aspect of creating atmosphere involves lighting design. No performance can do without adequate lighting. Lighting communicates intensity and mood, entertains, focuses attention, and provides essential light. When done well, lighting adds a seamless, unobtrusive and subconscious element to an event performance. Also, to state the obvious, without lights, it’ll be a pretty dark show.

performance venue lighting design

Thankfully, it’s easy to set up and use lighting to enhance any show. An easy-to-use control interface lets you and your team design your own lighting during a show. Good lighting controls allow you to set up your lighting cues quickly with a simple interface for playback. Lighting controls should be intuitive and well-designed, which gives you incredible power over lighting options and decision-making.

Whether it’s theatrical, house, architectural or exterior lighting, we’ll work with you to find the best options to enhance your performance space and the supporting spaces around your venue. We offer our services every step of the way. From consultation and design to opening night, we’ll help you turn your show into a performance.  

Good auditorium lighting offers an excellent, cost-effective option for adding a technical aspect, but it’s not the only way to enhance an event.

Video Considerations for Auditorium Design

Video screens kick up the entertainment aspect of any event. They give your performers or speakers an extra tool in their arsenal. The added dimension of video accompaniment grants your audience an extra element of involvement. Video enhances any concert or performance, and for guest speakers, it’s often required.

Many presenters require an auditorium to have video or screens capability in order to project their slides or video. Educators, motivational speakers, corporate events, you name it; they all need a visual way to communicate their message. If you want to gain the ability to host presentations, you’ll need video, projection and screen capabilities.

It’s wise to consider your current arrangement. Does it provide the proper screen sizes, placement and screen type for an optimal viewing experience?

If you have questions about which product is right for you, Spire AVL can help. We provide a range of full audio visual solutions. Our selection covers rooms and auditoriums of any size and specification. We can help you design and source video screens and monitors that coordinate perfectly with a full control system. Whether you need projection equipment, camera systems, video or LED walls, video distribution and switching, the team at Spire will design a system that is appropriate for your space and your needs.

Bringing Your Space to Life with Good Auditorium Architectural Design

If you’re redesigning or building a new space and you’ve considered its intended uses, now is the time to work with a professional AVL consultant to suggest ways to realize your vision and make it a reality.

At this stage, careful planning and design principles get applied. To make the most of any existing space, it’s necessary to use the available space and build on what’s already there. To optimize a space, analysis of the existing space takes center stage.

Be sure your AVL consultant approaches your project from an architectural and engineering standpoint. This will ensure a balanced blend of artistic approach and scientific approach. It’s important to integrate new features into the space effectively. Both structural and aesthetic considerations are crucial elements in the design stage. The two must complement each other perfectly for the space to function optimally.

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Another aspect concerns the end user perspective. You want to create a space that you control effortlessly. The behind-the-scenes show-runner needs everything to run smoothly. Whether that person is a school administrator, venue worker or church AV director, the back-end technical aspect must grant them full control.

All these aspects, when combined, result in an optimal visitor experience. When designing the features of a space, the vantage point of both the venue and the viewer come into play. When all the elements get utilized correctly, a honed, perfected event space is the result.  

Enhancement Tips for Any Auditorium Space

Using this principle, you can heighten the experience of your space at any level of enhancement. Renovations greatly vary on a scale of intensity. It all comes down to your needs and the space at hand. Occasionally, people only need minor enhancements. It’s easy to bring an existing space to the next level using better lighting, video or audio technology. Here are a few tips:

  • For audio, designing and installing sound-absorbing or sound-diffusing panels represents a simple solution for unwanted acoustical properties within a space. Take into account a proper acoustical spatial design on your next project and hire a consultant to help you create an inviting performance space. To complement the acoustics, ensure that an appropriately designed audio system is in place that goes hand-in-hand with the acoustical design. Every modern hall and event space needs a proper sound system. This necessity represents one of the simplest ways to improve the quality of audio within a space.           
  • For lighting, incorporating a quality control solution makes lighting easier to use. You gain more detailed control of a space and improved ease of control for untrained users by providing simple control interfaces.
  • For video, better design and equipment results in a superior communication experience. It also increases the variety of guests you can host. You’ll even save cost because you won’t need to replace or rent video equipment as frequently when you implement a professionally designed video system.


Contact Spire AVL to Assist With Your Auditorium AVL Needs Today

It’s impossible to overstate the value of a fully equipped multi-purpose performance space. It pays to invest in the improvement of your space’s quality. Simply by ensuring good audio, video and lighting design, your space will jump to the next level, and can even become a new revenue stream for your organization.

Spire AVL seeks to boost the performance of every space through applying expert design principles for each of our clients. We coordinate with you and design a custom plan to enhance your current space or renovate to create the space you need. That’s why we believe it’s vital to assess each space individually, we know your space and needs are unique and your solution should be unique too. With this in mind, we work with you as AVL consultants to envision and create a custom solution that best fits your needs and budget, all the while incorporating best practices and critical design principles to ensure the best solution for you.

Ready to improve your auditorium or multi-purpose space? Contact Spire AVL to speak with one of our AVL consulting experts. We can’t wait to hear your ideas and see your present situation. We’ll set up a free consultation and learn about how to ensure your auditorium is designed for optimal use for all purposes present and well into the future.