World-class corporate events increasingly demand venues that can stage presentations on an epic scale. Few facilities offer a flexible mix of spaces for conferences, exhibitions, live performances, concerts and corporate functions at every level from the intimate to the vast. The Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre is the first venue of its kind on this scale in the UK and one of only four in Europe capable of seating more than 3,000 delegates.

Within the context of a very tight budget, the challenge was to create the most economic enclosure for all the components of a complex brief - auditorium, exhibition halls, concourses - which form the setting for what might be thought of as industrial theatre. The solution is in the spirit of the shipbuilding traditions of the Clyde and the conference centres site on Glasgows Queens Dock. It takes a flat sheet material and employs it to clad a series of framed hulls, which wrap around the disparate elements, including the auditorium fly-tower. These overlapping, aluminium-clad shells - reflective by day and floodlit at night - create a distinctive profile on the skyline.

Inside, this industrial theatre requires a neutral, highly serviced environment, which can be transformed to accommodate a wide variety of events. Accordingly, the conference hall is technically state-of-the-art - complete with wings and full back-stage facilities - but is flexible enough to allow large trucks to be driven directly onto the stage. The main theatre provides electronic delegate voting systems, simultaneous translation, projection systems and sound control booths. Visitors approach this collection of facilities from the east, entering beneath a canopy formed by the arc of the roof. From the registration area they can enter a 300-seat conference room or go up to the first-floor foyer, which connects with the auditorium and an associated network of break-out and exhibition spaces. Enveloping all of these elements, the building provides a symbolic form which brings a focus to its location and represents the city. This has helped to strengthen Glasgows reputation as an international business destination, enabling it to compete with conference and exhibition facilities around the world.

Sketches + Drawings

Facts + Figures

  • Appointment: 1995
  • Completion: 1997
  • Area: 13,000m²
  • Capacity: 3035
  • Client: Glasgow City Council
  • Structural Engineer: Arup
  • Quantity Surveyor: Gardiner & Theobald
  • M+E Engineer: Arup