Retractable Seating: A Master Class

December 2, 2019 3:31 pm Published by

Retractable seating is often also referred to as telescopic seating, tiered seating and bleachers, with rows of seating that fold away into the depth of a single row providing you with a multi-use space for your venue.

Where would you use retractable seating?

They are usually used in spaces and venues which are multiuse spaces, therefore although they may need seating at times, in other situations they need the space for sport, theatre and other reasons. 

Retractable seating is often used in theatre and performing arts venues, educational establishments and sporting arenas; but is in no way confined to these locations.  We have completed installations in religious buildings, theme parks and even on an oil rig!

Retractable Seating Chobham Academy Swiss International Scientific School, Dubai

How does retractable seating work?

Seating is in rows and connected to platforms, the yolk folds forward to make the seating flatten to a level just slightly shorter than the row rise so that the whole seat and its mechanism can fold away.  Seating needs to be accessed by aisles which can be located at the edges of through out the seating, depending on the size and design of your venue.  Additional items such as USB ports, writing tablets and iPad pockets are just a few things you can add to make your seating completely perfect for your audience.

When we talk about telescopic seating do you understand us?

We are passionate about seating and have our own vocabulary about it.  Keywords we will use when discussing the best set up for your venue include some of the following:

Row Rise – this is the difference in height between one level of seating and the row immediately behind it.

Row Depth – this is the distance between the front and back of the platform step on each row.  For audience comfort, and depending on the seat option you choose we will recommend the optimum row depth to ensure that your audience remains comfortable whilst using the seating.

Vomitory – this is the space beneath a stand allowing access to internal aisles or gangways.

Electronic Partial Opening – We understand the flexible nature of the multipurpose spaces in which our retractable systems are installed. Our electronic partial opening allows the end user at the flick of a switch to select the desired number of rows, therefore offering the ability to alter capacity depending on the requirement of the event. This feature is available with our Seatway TP system only.

Aisle Illumination – We offer multiple solutions to enable the access steps on our system to be clearly visible to enable the safe egress onto and off our seating units.

Electrical Safety Sensors – Leading the retractable seating industry with cutting edge research we have developed a safety sensor system which detects the presence of a person or obstruction when the seating unit is opening/closing and will automatically stop the system in this event.

Fascia Boards – Available in a number of standard and bespoke finishes to complement your seating system and your venue.

Flex Rows – Provides cut-outs for wheelchair seating, located in the 1st row of seating. These flex rows can be pulled out and used as additional seating when no disabled access is required.

Row 0 – Row 0 seats are a cost-effective way of adding additional seating. These seats are permanently fixed to the row 1 front beam. The seating unit, however, will therefore not have a flush finish when closed.

Wing Units – Wing Units are bespoke design to best fit the shape of the building and therefore maximise seat capacity.

Double Depth Rows – this enables 2 rows of chairs to be fitted per platform. This is ideal for venues with restricted ceiling height. We install a special feature to enable the platforms to be set at single or double depth.

Retractable Seating Discovery Bench Hussey Seatway Our Process Hussey Seatway

What size is retractable seating and will it fit in my space?

Retractable seating systems are completely bespoke, no two retractable seating systems are the same.  Our seating experts will advise you on the best option for your space to maintain the greatest amount of seating, the best flexibility and the best sightlines for your audience. 

We are guided by the constraints of your space which dictates the number of seats and rows that we can allocate.  This includes any constraints of the height and length of the room, as well as fire exits, windows and any other potential ‘interference’.  We also need to consider the comfortable unit height clearance between the top of the seating system and the ceiling. 

How do I open retractable seating units?

You can choose between a manual opening option, which is really only suitable for smaller units, or power-operated systems.  If your venue is particularly large, with multiple units it could be best to use hydraulic trucks to move the units. 

So, we’ve measured up, now what?

Once the overall dimensions and seating capacity have been determined, you still have a number of decisions to make.

There are multiple options available for storage of the seating when it is not in use, these include travelling units, recessed units and fixed units.

Retractable Seating Cumbernauld Theatre Hussey Seatway Refurbishment Club Bench Retractable Seating

Platform options: Retractable Seating

We offer two choices of platform, the Maxam which is manufactured by our partner company Hussey Seating in the USA, and the UK manufactured Seatway TP.  Seatway TP is a premium, high performance, retractable (telescopic) seating system that is custom-engineered to suit specific spaces and design concepts leading to flexible seating configurations. Seatway TP retractable platforms have been developed in the UK.   Specifically, for use in facilities such as performing arts centres, theatres and school auditoriums where a more solid feel to the structure is required and where full theatre folding chairs need to be installed.

The innovative spaceframe concept behind the TP retractable system features a fully welded platform structure rather than a set of bolted together components. The product is manufactured in the UK and has become the internationally acknowledged method for producing high-performance retractable seating systems. All telescopic platforms are manufactured to order therefore unit width, depth and rise can be designed to maximise audience sightlines and seating capacity. The raked, tiered seating systems come with a 10-year warranty as standard, which backed up with our comprehensive maintenance packages will allow our seating to become a fixture in your facility for years to come.

Being a regular supplier to theatre and performance venues we acknowledge that the properties of products play a key role in the overall acoustic performance of the venue.  We are able to tailor our seating designs to meet the specific acoustic requirement of the project, working closely with specialist consultants we can vary the profile of the upholstery, change the density of the foams and supply slotted wooden panels to the seats if required. The soft close tipping mechanism on all of our chairs ensures that audience members leaving their seats throughout performances will not interrupt anyone else.

Telescopic Seating: Chair options

A key consideration for all clients is the seating.  This provides you with the visual interest to your venue and also the comfort to your audience.  You can see our whole collection on our website, where you can see we offer a huge selection of seat and bench options.

Maintenance of retractable seating systems

In order to keep your seating system operating efficiently, it is essential that you complete its annual service to maintain the warranty, with our team of highly skilled service engineers. We offer a complete after-sales package that includes service, parts, emergency call-out, upgrades, refurbishment, additional ancillary items and staff training.

Hampton Gardens Club Bench Retractable Seating Retractable Seating Brighton College


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This post was written by Joanna Palmer