Doolan Award 2014 - SSE Hydro

The SSE Hydro, Glasgow

The winners of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) Awards 2014 were announced on 18 June. The award-winning projects represent some of the very best of current Scottish architecture and each will go forward to the shortlist for the RIAS Andrew Doolan Best Building in Scotland Award, which will be presented on 5 November 2014 at the National Museum of Scotland. The RIAS Doolan Award is supported by the Doolan family and the Scottish Government. Over the coming weeks we will be highlighting each of these projects in our “featured project” section. The eleventh of these is: The SSE Hydro, Glasgow by Foster + Partners.


The SSE Hydro is a dramatic landmark building within the QD2 masterplanned area, and the outstanding, luminous quality of its design is a key factor in performing its function of attracting large crowds to its events.  The Hydro is, above all, designed to provide the best view possible to each of its visitors, and the building achieves that aim through an elegant design solution. With a seated capacity of 12,000 (13,000 standing), it is the largest entertainments venue in Scotland and the only one of its scale in the UK built specifically for concerts and events. The new facilities enhance Glasgow and Scotland's tourism offer, specifically business tourism, and the Hydro arena has the potential to inject an estimated additional £131 million into the local economy.


The building’s form is generated from the inside by focusing on the visitor experience and ensuring that people in all seats are able to see the stage clearly.  The emphasis on sightlines was the determining factor in creating the round shape of the auditorium.  In plan, the auditorium is moderately similar to an amphitheatre. The seating is weighted directly in front of the stage rather than behind it or to the sides to draw the audience closer to the stage. This arrangement ensures that there are no bad seats for views.  The seating  wraps around the stage above ground level and rises as it sweeps outwards.  By raising the auditorium at an angle, servicing and access is enabled below.  The external walls of the venue are clad in translucent, air-filled, ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE) cushions. This is used because it can admit natural light during the day and can also display coloured lighting and projections at night.


The QD2 (second redevelopment of the Queens Dock) masterplan, created in 2003 by Page\Park, is designed to enhance and transform the 64-acre site into a complete exhibition, conference and entertainments complex of significant national scale and make the SECC a world-class venue.  The Hydro is a key building in this plan and also played an integral role in the 2014 Commonwealth Games as the home for both gymnastics and the netball finals at the games.


Images © Nigel Young

External and internal views and plan of SSE Hydro