Conventions & Events are Putting the City at Centre Stage.

City Brand Experience

Convention centres are becoming embedded in central business districts, putting an increased premium on design that reflects the local culture. Instead of locations that offer ample parking and easy access by car, these centralized locations offer easier access to public transit and a city’s top attractions. The increased density and proximity to city institutions demands a new typology that’s more fluid in its branding, design, and infrastructure.

Cities increasingly view the convention centre itself as a brand opportunity to sell the unique culture, talent pool, industry expertise, and tourist attractions. Delegates demand such an experience, as conferences are not just destinations but opportunities to engage with host cities to determine business, employment, and investment opportunities.

As a result, the planning priorities of the convention centre and city centre have become more aligned. The traditional structure, often described as a “box with docks,” revolves around a massive central building that’s at odds with the finer grain of most central districts. The interior can be immense and overwhelming, making it unattractive as a site for smaller events that are important to the community and alienating to locals who rarely see a reason to visit.

Now, convention centres are incorporating the lessons of finer grain mixed-use developments in the cities that surround them. They are designed with an inherent flexibility that lets users repurpose facilities for different uses, while bringing a more intimate and human-scale feel to the convention experience. The city experience is reflected in the interior experience of the building, either through distinctive standalone design or an open architecture that showcases nearby structures. Clients and delegates are placing an increased emphasis on having the building reflect the local experience so that delegates have the sense that they are experiencing the city rather than feeling that they could be anywhere.

Choreographing Surprise and Integrating Local Experience

  • Mixed use facilities located in prime CBD locations for the specific purpose of stimulating economic connections.
  • Integrating authentic local activities in the core function of the centre, supporting a high degree of activation and community engagement, ensuring locals incorporate the facility into their daily experience.
  • Minimising down time: All convention centres should support programming of events beyond the realm of conventions.
  • The inside and outside should be fundamentally connected. Those inside must embrace a new tech savvy client, they must facilitate multiple experiences (pop up retail), cultural (exhibitions) and branding/identity for clients, delegates and residents.

New Zealand International Convention Centre

Designed to reflect Auckland’s new urban identity with street-to-street edges, the centre features a flexible open architecture and dispenses with plazas to encourage connect directly with surrounding streets. The centre boasts a retractable plenary space, pre-function space, and exhibition space that can shift from 120 square metres to 8000 square metres, with almost limitless configurations between. A 120-metre gallery is mirrored by a laneway, enabling both spaces to flex and merge together while enhancing views of Waitakere Ranges and Waitemata Harbour. Located near the city’s main dining and shopping districts, the space is designed to also serve as an ideas hub and marketplace that can morph into cafes, bars, and tutorial rooms. 

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