User-friendly convention center design
25 + facilities designed by the same team
Art Basel and Comic-Con International: San Diego—the largest shows of their kind in the world—are held in Fentress Architects-designed convention centers each year, as are numerous home, car, and consumer shows; musical performances; and a full spectrum of association conferences and exhibits.
Convention Center Architecture
Fentress Architects is guided by the humanistic ideals that a building must work well for its users and speak of and to its culture and community. Designing to context is the act of creating structures that are expressive of community values and the nature of the work to be performed inside. When done well, convention and trade show centers, conference facilities, and exhibit halls are also civic landmarks and substantial generators of revenue for their local economy.
We are proud to be positively contributing to the evolution of convention center design. Collaborating with multifaceted teams—elected officials, directors of tourism, meeting and exhibit planners, design consultants, and more—is energizing and inspiring. Together, we are able to produce innovative solutions that meet the needs of all stakeholders, while also exceeding the public’s expectations.
— Michael Winters, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C
More than six million attendees, planners, staff, and members of the general public experience Fentress Architects-designed meeting and exhibit facilities each year. The remarkable accessibility, efficiency, flexibility, aesthetics, and sustainable design—hallmarks of Fentress Architects’ convention and meeting spaces—have garnered nearly 40 awards and recognitions including:
- Pasadena Convention Center Expansion, Merit Award, Best Public/ Private Use Building, Gold Nugget Awards, 2010
- Colorado Convention Center Phase II Expansion, American Architecture Award, Chicago Athenaeum, 2008
- Palm Springs Convention Center Expansion, People’s Choice Award, American Institute of Architects Denver Chapter, 2008
- Santa Fe Community Convention Center, US Green Building Council LEED Gold
We, at Fentress Architects, are experts in convention and meeting center architecture with a breadth of experience that ranges from San Diego’s 2,600,000-square-foot (242,000- square meter) convention center to the recently completed 65,000-square-foot (5,575- square-meter) Fox Cities Exhibition Center.
Fentress [Architects] addressed all the key design concerns: From being green and sustainable, to providing flexible exhibit and meeting space, to preserving the view corridors and energizing the waterfront, to adding community services that will build on the civic pride and ownership San Diegans have for this iconic facility.
— Bob Nelson, former Chair of San Diego Convention Center Corporation’s Board of Directors
Meeting the Needs of Exhibition and Conference Planners
A myriad of drivers require host cities, mayors, council members, and general managers to undertake these capital projects be them new construction, renovation, addition, expansion, or remodels. The primary driver is meeting the needs of the desired client groups—both existing and new. Architects must understand the demands of exhibition and conference planners, whether it’s sustaining San Diego among the top five destinations in the United States or helping Santa Fe grow in size and amenities in order to attract the next tier of clientele. It isn’t enough to simply understand the terms: pre-function, pre-registration, front-of-house, back-of-house, food service, and more. In order to design a successful facility, architects must understand the how and why of daily operations.
Flexible, Contiguous Space
Flexible, yet contiguous space is paramount. The Georgia World Conference Center, which is already the nation’s fourth largest convention center and host to more than a million visitors each year, is undertaking a renovation and expansion in order to remain competitive. Fentress Architects’ 100,000-square-foot connector will link the existing halls and thereby, allow Georgia to offer planners over one million square feet of contiguous exhibit space. Expansion of the Colorado Convention Center employed a different solution to achieve a similar objective. In order to offer 100,000 square feet of contiguous meeting room space, an adjacent city street and its accompanying light-rail line were rerouted to the northern edge of the site, all within the sidewalk perimeter.
Outdoor Event Space
Outdoor event space has also been elevated from trend to necessity. The recently completed transformation of the Miami Beach Convention Center included adding over 12 acres of green space to their campus for the enjoyment of visitors and residents alike. As the most technologically advanced convention center in the United States, it is also fully compliant with new FEMA codes aimed at safeguarding against future hurricanes and flooding. Miami’s transformation was completed in under three years during which the facility remained operational and hosted over 40 shows, including Art Basel, which attracted a record 83,000 attendees. Fox Cities, Pasadena, and Santa Fe also prioritized outdoor event space. In addition to a variety of terraces, the 6,600-square-foot courtyard at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center can be configured for a variety of event types including theater style, banquet, and reception. This Southwestern-styled courtyard reinforces the Center’s role as a community gathering place. It also links to pedestrian pathways that lead into the heart of Santa Fe’s celebrated and centuries-old Central Plaza.
Sustain and Grow Tourism
Often the most compelling driver is the need to grow or sustain tourism and make a positive economic impact on a city, region, and country, as is the case with the USA Pavilion at 2020 World Expo in Dubai. As the third largest event in the world, behind the Olympics and FIFA World Cup, World Expo draws over 25 million visitors during its six month run. Like the Expo, San Diego’s Convention Center Expansion will also provide an economic boost to the economy. In addition to the activity associated with construction, it will provide sustained benefit through the creation of over 6,500 permanent jobs and an additional $698 million more than it’s current $1.3 billion annual impact,. Completed in 2005, the expansion of Palm Springs Convention Center continues to produce a proportionally positive benefit to its local economy by generating over $170 million in estimated annual tax revenue and supporting of over 55,000 jobs.
The lobby’s look, feel and texture and the incredible view of the mountains set the tone for meetings held at the Palm Springs Convention Center. People walk into the lobby and instantly feel comfortable. Even though people are here for business, they enjoy the surroundings and feel a part of the environment… This translates to a better all-around experience.
— Jim Dunn, former General Manager, Palm Springs Convention Center
Art and Revitalization of the Urban Core
Another driver of these projects is the need to redevelop and improve the urban landscape, and in doing so, enhance civic pride and create opportunities for the integration of public art. The Colorado Convention Center, which had a $2.2 million public art program, is often credited with renewing an entire quadrant of the city’s urban core. Fox Cities Exhibition Center —the first of its kind for a region comprised of 19 distinct, vibrant communities—rises from a bluff on the edge of downtown Appleton, Wisconsin overlooking a nearly 6-acre park. While it is designed to meet the capacity requirements of shows that might otherwise go to regional cities like Oshkosh or Green Bay, its early success is largely attributed to its unique setting.
Convention centers in Pasadena, California and Ogden, Utah are similar to Fox Cities in that they also maximize the inherent and unique advantages of their location. The architectural detailing of Pasadena’s convention center pays homage to the project’s centerpiece: a historic Beaux-Arts-style civic auditorium. Meanwhile its interior configuration is wholly modern; it emphasizes efficient circulation, maximum flexibility, and user convenience. The David Eccles Conference Center pays homage to the adjacent Peery’s Theater, which was built in 1929 with a design inspired by the discovery of King Tut’s tomb. The restored theater with its accompanying modern conference facility form a dynamic complex that has been pivotal to downtown’s revitalization.
[Perry’s Egyptian Theater] is a fabulous project on all fronts. The restoration is dazzling, the dogged determination of local preservationists is awe-inspiring and the message that this project sends about the importance of preservation of downtown revitalization is on the mark.
– National Trust for Historic Preservation Jury Comment
Fentress Architects proudly supports the following industry associations:
Learn more about our convention centers capabilities, contact:
Michael O. Winters FAIA, LEED AP BD+C
Principal, Director of Design and Interiors