Since opening in 1929, Rhodes House has been an Oxford landmark. A Grade II listed country house in the heart of the city, it hosts weddings and varied high-profile events. A recent £38m refurbishment has seen it open a modern conference and convening centre, that fosters connectivity and collaboration.

Darren Gatenby, Senior Consultant at Hewshott Consultancy, has been lead Technology Consultant on the project since its inception five years ago. The goal was for Rhodes House to become the premier events and conferencing venue in Oxford, serving educational events, weddings and corporate functions.

Conference Room, Rhodes HouseIncorporating a number of different spaces, the venue comprises the main 280-seat Convening Hall plus smaller rooms and a garden pavilion. ‘Originally, the rooms were essentially echo tunnels,’ Gatenby says. ‘The challenge was to address the acoustic issues within these spaces, and make a robust audio infrastructure that was infinitely flexible, scalable and expandable.’

Hewshott put the extensive project out to tender, with A/V solutions provider GVAV awarded the contract.,

In consultation with Audiologic, GVAV Technical Sales Manager Stuart Harris designed a comprehensive Q-Sys ecosystem centred on 16 NV-32 H core capable software configurable video endpoints with four TSC Touch Screen Controllers. AD-C6T speakers and Q-Sys PTZ cameras were integrated with Shure MXA710 and 910 ceiling microphones, SM58 and WL185 handheld and lapel microphones, and Yamaha VXL1B line arrays.

Q-Sys, a cloud-manageable audio, video and control platform, forms the backbone of the conference centre’s technical infrastructure. Its modern architecture and development tools facilitate seamless integration with third-party partners’ solutions, providing a versatile and cohesive ecosystem.

The Convening Hall can be divided into three separate areas, and is equipped with Shure MXA microphones and front/rear cameras, allowing versatile configurations with multiple screens, excellent acoustic properties and easy to use control panels. Smaller meeting rooms have full controllable audio with NEC large-format screens, running bars, logitech scribes and taps with roommate PC running Zoom rooms.

The XR Lab space is for extended reality presentations and exhibits. Lighting can be changed to marry the mood of the space or the exhibit, with the ability to highlight items within the nook areas. The Garden Pavilion fully glazed meeting space, with camera technology built-in, has Shure MXA 710 microphones built in to front, Q-Sys touchpanel for control of the space and a large format display.

Rhodes HouseDespite delays caused by the restoration project’s scope, the evolution of the brief and technology enhancements proved advantageous, following the trends and technology, as equipment became more available post the coronavirus pandemic.

Early engagement on the project was key for all parties, Hewshott worked directly with the architects and stakeholders from conception to ensure that the technology was fit for purpose and installed correctly, ensuring premium sound and functionality when the architects were pressing for everything to be as invisible as possible.

‘Acoustics needed to be thought about at the very beginning, not as an afterthought,’ Harris says. ‘Cabling and recesses were all addressed from the start, with everything configured from a discovery perspective, making the building a matrix which is then easy to plug-in the hardware.’

Accurate designs meant a seamless installation with fine tuning and finishing touches delivered with ease. ‘Though we didn’t stray far from the original design, adding in elements such as the lectern with the screen in the back was a nice little edition we came up with,’ Harris says. ‘As the Q-Sys system is so flexible, it makes tweaks very easy. Keeping lines of communication open throughout the project was key – we worked very closely with Audiologic to make sure we had priority for Q-Sys kit coming in to overcome those hurdles – without their help and flexibility we would have been missing some key components.’

Oxford%u2019s Rhodes HouseOn the choice of Q-Sys, he says: ‘The aim was to find the optimal solution, and AVoIP was a no-brainer. QSC was a contender from early on, and with the delays we saw the Q-Sys ecosystem evolve, with the cores developing, the NV technology and the way the system communicates with the cameras and the controls, it became the perfect fit. The Q-Sys ecosystem is now the system of choice across many of our projects, due to its seamless flexibility.

‘A few years ago we would have used QSC for audio, but not for the control platform,’ he adds. ‘As they started to bring in control and elements and build, it has become this holistic solution – one platform that does everything.’

Efthymios (Tim) Chatzigiannis, AV Manager at The Rhodes Trust praised Q-Sys’ functionality: ‘I was impressed with the flexibility and ease with which you can integrate different elements by dragging and dropping. I needed to add exposure controls for the cameras and it was so simple to do. The training opened my eyes to the possibilities, and I am confident I can tweak and adapt the system as we require. The Q-Sys communities have been an invaluable support.’

‘In comparison to the short time that it took Tim to add the camera controls, it would have taken at least half a days work with a different control system, with new OI layouts, new background programming, whereas within the QSC environment you do it all in one go – in minutes, not hours,’ Harris says.

‘With Q-Sys you have the ability to control the system remotely from anywhere, even outside the building, managing and learning as you go,’ says Jess Rararty, Internal Business Manager at Audiologic.

‘Our client is extremely pleased with the solution, as new technology and new requirements come along, we will modify and update the system as required,’ Gatenby concludes. ‘It is clear that the usage of the system will be dynamic and evolving, once users get used to the impressive capabilities, it will pave the way for new events.’

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