Audience Systems completes installation at The Roundhouse in Camden
The Roundhouse, a vibrant venue in Camden, London, hosts an eclectic mix of arts, theatre, conferences and gigs, as well as playing a crucial role in the development of the local artistic community. The Grade II listed auditorium dates back to Victorian times, with beautiful ironwork columns that recall its role as a tramshed.
Fitting a retractable seating system around these is a challenge in itself. However, the Roundhouse has an added challenge. Any seating system used in the venue has to be able to be taken out of the venue in small sections to be stored in shipping containers in the yard. The venue had a seating system in place, but it was an eye-watering kit of 30,000 parts, taking four days to install or remove, with a £25,000 labour bill. Understandably, the seating was not brought into the venue very often. The Roundhouse team decided that any replacement system would need to be installable in a single day – vastly improving their ability to put on a flexible programme of events that might need a small audience area, 270 degrees of seating around a thrust stage, or the full 360 degree “in the round” layout.
Charcoalblue theatre consultants came up with a concept design that would address these challenges, as well as improving sightlines and accessibility, and asked Audience Systems to make it happen. The system consists of 54 jigsaw pieces, with each piece a complete retractable system. The engineering to get the retractable systems into the shipping containers was a project in itself, with Audience Systems’ engineering team creating a special hydraulic ramp as well as custom stillages that slide into the shipping containers like drawers, each holding eight of the smaller units. The larger units are also fitted with integral hydraulics, to allow them to be wheeled into the venue without a forklift.
Where possible the retractable units are fitted with fold-down Espace chairs; the front rows of the system have too gentle a rake to be able to accommodate the seats on the closed units, so removable chairs in groups slot into place. A small number of stacking chairs complete the auditorium.