With a major two-phase transformation that began in 2009, Antwerp’s Queen Elisabeth Hall & Congress Centre is building a multifunctional concert venue incorporating a spacious congress facility. The project brings with it the requirement for an expertly engineered sound system – a task entrusted to Face.
The equipment that has been chosen for the job by the Belgian distributor comes from Renkus-Heinz, Powersoft and Martin Audio.
The new look facility is a long way removed from the original building, which is owned by the Royal Zoological Society of Antwerp (KMDA) and dates from 1890 – having been demolished after the Second World War and rebuilt in 1960. Plans to refurbish this building were scratched in favour of a total rebuild, which was budgeted in the region of €85m.
Today, the 25,000-sq-m facility hosts the 2,020-seat Queen Elisabeth Hall, accommodating the Royal Flemish Philharmonic Orchestra, the expansion of the Congress Centre and integration of the new building in the Historical Wing. Linking it all together is the spacious and airy Atrium Hall, which also provides the main access to the building. The multifunctionality will see it host concerts and congresses but also classical music combined with theatre and dance and pop-rock concerts – cleverly designed technologically for fast turnover between the different events.
Face joined a team in 2013 that included Ian Simpson Architects, acoustic consultants Kierkegaard Associates, Bureau Bouwtechniek architects, and theatre consultants Charcoalblue. The technical specialist was brought in by main technical contractor Putnam to handle the audiovisual system, lighting and cabling.
As the new venue reckins to become Europe’s most ‘silent’ concert facility, acoustically optimised by Kierkegaard, the loudspeaker system is critical: Self-powered active speakers, lighting or switches with fans were not an option, either in the main venue or surrounding rooms,’ says Face Project Division Manager, Steven Kemland.
Face designed an FOH system comprising of Renkus-Heinz VARIAi flown array clusters to achieve optimal coverage. With the stage tailor-made for the Philharmonic, and divided in three moving elements, the company installed 26 customised RH CFX41 stairstep speakers in the three rows, following throughout the Ease model and simulations for the optimum placement of speakers.
For stage monitoring, Face has opted for Martin Audio systems with all main speaker and monitor sets powered by three Powersoft X8 and three X4 from the new flagship series, while an Ottcanali amplifier, featuring a switching device designed by Face, serve the front fill speakers – with all amplifiers carrying Dante onboard. Processed by Powersoft Armonía software, with internal DSP and Matrix onboard, this amplifier platform allowed the integration of a very complex set-up to be operated with an extremely user-friendly interface.
In addition to the FOH system Face also installed a discreet speech system to be used with the FOH front fill and delay speakers. The venue is also equipped with an Ampetronic hearing loop system, split into five zones.
A Dante network controls and links up the whole audio configuration for both the main system and external zones via a MediaMatrix Nion platform. ‘The fact that all the components we selected have Dante onboard allows full and swift control over the system,’ Kemland. concludes ‘This project was both an honour and a challenge for myself, my project manager Stijn Vermeiren and entire installation team, who were on site for more than six months. It is one of the most complex infrastructures we have in Belgium.’
The Queen Elisabeth Hall is now open and the Congress Centre follows in March 2017.