When I’m in an auditorium to hear someone speak, perform, or otherwise inspire me—I want to be able to see the person, for goodness’ sake.
Is that too much to ask?
This extremely obvious need is apparently lost on many architects and other building designers who obviously don’t spend a lot of time putting good thought into this very most basic of needs in an auditorium.
Recently I attended a memorial service at a local church in its relatively new sanctuary. It was beautiful, with superb appointments that spoke of the tender loving care those good people obviously put into their house of worship.
As soon as I sat down, before I could even do the perfunctory glance around the room to see how many acquaintances I could spot, I knew there was going to be trouble:
The platform was almost level with my field of vision.
Almost level. Amazing.
Granted, I was sitting in the back since I came in rather late before the service—but I could immediately see that I was going to have some major visibility problems.
With row after row of heads in front of me leading up to the low, low platform many feet ahead at the front of the sanctuary, I knew it was going to be a futile battle seeing anything of significance during this service.
And indeed, that’s the way it was the entire hour. After the first few seconds I resigned myself to simply sitting and listening—only occasionally finding a fortunate gap through the bobbing heads to catch a cursory glance at the speaker, who couldn’t have been more than seven or eight inches above the main floor level.
Why are sanctuaries and auditoriums designed no better than this? Plenty of thought seems to go into all the other details, except this extremely important one: the height of the platform.
It’s a no-brainer. The platform absolutely must have enough altitude to allow even people in the back to see reasonably well. If you’re losing people beyond the fourth or fifth rows, you’ve failed a good part of the audience.
If I were a member at that church, I would definitely encourage some serious thinking about adding some elevation to that low, low platform. Face it—anytime you have more than a handful of people in that auditorium, the visibility issues raise their ugly heads (pun intended).
This is such a critical issue that I believe drastic measures should be taken if needed to make corrections. It really is that important.
Better to plan it right in the first place, though.