Three years in the making, a new studio represents the future of China’s recording industry – and a bold move in a superstar’s long-term career plan.
Designed by Walters-Storyk Design Group, the Village Studios project is a good reflection of the interaction of company’s international offices. ‘It is interesting to note that neither distance nor language presented insurmountable barriers to our collaboration,’ WSDG principal John Storyk observes.
One hour by train from Hong Kong into Mainland China, China’s first true ‘destination’ recording studio has opened in Guangzhou. Technologically sophisticated and acoustically superb, Village Studios was conceived by international pop star Hins Cheung.
The project was initially led by Storyk and required highly sophisticated analysis and auralisation, developed by WSDG’s European and Brazil branches.
The striking interior design by WSDG partner Beth Walters makes the12,400-sq-ft ground-up building combines world-class acoustics and aesthetics in an exotic, yet fully cosmopolitan setting.
It boasts an expansive 3,000-sq-ft live room with an 18-ft-high ceiling along with two autonomous 800-sq-ft control rooms, each with spacious 640, and 230-sq-ft iso booths. Hins’ manager, Bella Fan reports that his affinity for vintage gear, inspired Studio A to be fitted with a prized SSL9080K console. Studio B features a classic Neve VR72 and 8068.
WSDG’s initial drawings proved very close to the mark in terms of Hins’ expectations. Complex site lines between the orchestra sized live and dual control rooms, coupled with the double height ceiling and, the higher than average reverb time typically associated with China’s idiosyncratic music style, presented extremely interesting design challenges. To resolve these issues WSDG engaged a number of elegant, variable acoustic solutions including custom curtains and multi-format diffusion panels. WSDG also provided detailed construction documents, project construction administration and final studio commissioning/tuning for the complex. ‘To bring a project of this size and sophistication to reality on the other side of the world was a formidable challenge,’ Storyk says. ‘It was an honor to work with Hins and his team.’
The complex includes a 520-sq-ft orchestra lounge with 18-ft high ceiling, multiple smaller lounges, kitchen and offices. ‘This project was an extremely ambitious undertaking,’ Walters says. ‘China is expanding its international presence in virtually every area of art and industry. Village Studios sends a clear message that a new “destination recording studio” has arrived.’
‘John Storyk made his initial visit to the site in early 2009,’ says Project Manager Joshua Morris. ‘We began preliminary design work soon after he returned. Our US-based senior PM, Romina Larregina, led the team that developed all designs and documentation. She also coordinated building permits and other pre-construction details with the local architect, engineering and construction teams. I completed the design and construction documents and made my first site visit in Sept. 2009.’
While reviewing on-site work, discussing technical issues and inspecting acoustic treatments and building materials, Morris was pleased to find a high level of construction and technical expertise among the local Chinese contractors, and technicians: ‘It is safe to say that this level of acoustic detail was a challenge for the construction team in China – a challenge that was successfully met,’ he reports. ‘Wherever possible, local materials were used, although studio specialty items such as room isolation devices and acoustic doors were either directly imported or licensed for Europe and the US.’
As plans called for substantial A/V interconnectivity between the live and twin control rooms as well as numerous recording sites throughout the complex, systems integration and isolation were primary concerns. Hins’ team along with WSDG systems design engineers, Judy Elliot-Brown and Caroline Feldmeier held extensive online discussions with their China-based colleagues. Further on in the project, Hins requested that Brown visit the site for a full review of the wiring programme and to have her lead the installation of the final A/V conduit and raceway system.
Fully loaded with Pro Tools, Lynx Aurora, Studer, Prisim Sound, Apogee Lexicon, TC Electronic, Eventide, Mercury, GML Manley, Fairchild, API, Empirical, Crane Song and a full complement of classic mics including AEA, beyerdynamic, Neumann, Royer, Telefunken, Song C800G, DPA, Schoeps and Shure. Main monitors in the SSL Control Room are custom 15-inch Augspurgers. The Neve Control Room features 15-inch Dynaudio Acoustics custom Munro M6 mains. The technology package was coordinated by WSDG, in conjunction with US-based Professional Audio Design.
The studio also features two Hammond B3 organs and six Fender Rhodes electric pianos.
Beth Walters worked closely with Hins and Bella Fan on the colour schemes and furnishing details: ‘Village Studios is an extraordinary accomplishment from every perspective,’ Walters says. ‘We were committed to providing Hins with aesthetic details to complement their superlative acoustic and technical elements. Initial reports indicate that we have achieved that goal.
‘We see Village Studios as a triumph of professionalism. Hins has already recorded sessions with a full 60-piece symphonic orchestra,’ Storyk concludes. ‘His business plan is to make the studio available to both Chinese artists and an international client base.We are proud of this truly international design effort and confident that China’s newest world-class studio will be a true asset to that country’s entertainment industry.’
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