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Trends in Lobby Design

By Cathy Hutchison

We are seeing some truly creative trends in lobby design and prefunction space of entertainment centers, arts spaces and worship facilities.

Lobby spaces serve as the main arrival for facilities; however, designers are now working from the premise that the best experiences begin with anticipation.  These are some of the trends:

Going beyond the walls


The New World Center in Miami, Florida begins the experience with live, free “wallcasts” of select events throughout the season to the park outside the building. The 7,000-square-foot projection wall is fed from the same video control room as the hall. The projectors are housed and cooled in an outdoor tower in the park and provide high definition projection to the surface.


The Crossing Church in Missouri has sculptures in the lobby of each of their multi-site campuses with an iPad 2 affixed to it that, when connected via FaceTime, allows people from both campuses to approach and say “hi” to each other. People enjoy the interaction and it connects the idea of The Crossing being “one church, many locations.”

The Comcast Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania has one of the most ambitious uses of technology in the lobby of a building. The video wall, a giant HD video screen is one of the largest four-millimeter LED screens in the world. It transforms the space into an experience. The LED screens often begin with an image that looks much like a wall; however, elements begin to move and the wall animates itself with people climbing and creating. It can also become the universe creating a completely different experience.

Creating Connection


Many educational, corporate and worship venues are transforming their lobby and circulation spaces for collaboration. With free public wi-fi and pods of seating areas, the lobby is no longer a place to wait, it is a place to work and connect, such as this one at Newman University College in Birmingham, England, which has generated a strong sense of place, belonging and community through the design of its new foyer.


Lowered ceiling elements create more intimate spaces where people are drawn to gather such as this one in Idibri’s concept developed for Beethovenhall in Bonn, Germany.


For many venues, retail elements such as bookstores and restaurants can serve as the connection space that links the venue with street life. In many cases, patrons develop a familiarity with these spaces that will lead them to events at the venue, such as the St. Paul Cafe at the Criswell Center in Dallas, TX.

Design for Engagement


Unexpected elements in lobbies create engagement. We are seeing this often in youth spaces with rock climbing walls and basketball cages like this one at The Bricks at Perimeter Church in Duluth that create energy before people enter into the auditorium.


Lobbies offer the chance to use digital media to engage people in your story. This can be as simple as the digital signage at Pizza Hut’s Headquarters in Plano to as complex as dedicated installation pieces such as this one for GE’s headquarters in Fairfield, CT.

Kinetic technology is another way of engaging people within a space. One that has been popular in malls, movie theatres and hotels is Reactrix’s STEPscape. STEPscape projects an image onto the floor and people can “step” on the images causing it to react. Typically the technology is used to grab the attention of passersby and draw them into interacting with a brand. A less expensive kinetic technology is the Xbox Kinect with a host of games available that will react to movements.

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