Site selection: How architecture and ambiance enhance your event

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Site selection: How architecture and ambiance enhance your event

I recently had a fascinating discussion with acclaimed interior designer Lucienne Van Langen, owner of Luminary Design in Saskatoon, who hosts an annual gala evening for existing and potential clients. Van Langen is intimately aware of the “feeling” she wants to accomplish for her function.

“The venue we chose this year was a reflection of the characteristics of the individuals that make up our design firm and an extension of our luxury, high-end brand. It offered a unique experience in the way of lighting, sound and intimate gathering spaces,” says Van Langen.

What is ambiance? According to Funk & Wagnalls’ dictionary, ambiance is defined as “the environment or pervading atmosphere of a place or situation.” How does the ambiance of a venue affect your event?

The physical setting

The architecture of a venue represents the physical setting wherein you host your event. The physical walls, flooring, windows, ceiling, décor, fixtures, and lighting work together to create an inherent feeling within a space – which could range from upscale to rustic, high tech to serene, or modern to vintage.

Stainless steel, brushed aluminum and metal mesh create a unique vibe compared to cast-iron filigree and plush textures. Minimalist, all-one-colour interiors evoke a different response than the bright and bold visual stylings of the art deco movement. The warmth of red brick, timber, arches and terracotta is in contrast with the chill of an open industrial, warehouse-inspired event space.

In thinking about physical features, one may also want to consider the philosophy behind the physical amenities and what that might contribute to the ambiance. For example, creating an event with sustainability and holistic undertones would be served well by siting a venue that incorporates a wide range of green practices such as recycling programs, a living green wall, using Bullfrog Power, a garden/live landscape feature on building roof, programmable lighting and HVAC, etc.

Soft features and ambiance

A planner should not only consider the hard and physical features of the space but also consider the soft amenities such as seating, materials and artwork. Let’s look at seating for example. Both the style and arrangement of seating (or lack thereof!) can affect the ambiance. Clusters of lounge-like furniture encourages relaxed and casual conversations for a networking event, while classroom or theatre-style rows work well for one-direction messages (speaker to attendee), while lack of seating encourages a more mobile and interactive event.

Soft and plush seating materials like velvet versus the functionality of spandex and nylon are considerations. Bright up-lighting and laser lighting is appropriate for some events while diffused, gentle soft mood lighting is appropriate for others.

Deciding upon an event venue can be easy or difficult. There may be venues that simply feel right as they are and others that you need to enhance to feel right. Being clear on the intent and objectives of your event will help planners assess their venue choices. And if you are choosing a venue that isn’t perfect, please remember that the less the ambiance of a venue complements the desired outcome of your event, the more money and effort you will need to invest in other features to make up for it – such as décor, lighting, entertainment and menu.

Appealing to the senses of your attendees through the inherent ambiance of the chosen venue just makes good sense!

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