Poland's Royal Castle upgrades to Iconyx
Built between 1518-1619 as the residence of Sigismund III Vasa of Poland, Warsaw's Royal Castle has a rich and turbulent history. An imposing Baroque building by the river Vistula, the castle was fought over and repeatedly plundered by the Brandenburgian and Swedish armies. Having been rebuilt several times in the 18th century, it was almost completely destroyed by the Nazis in 1944.
Thirty years later, the fabric of the building had been reconstructed, and 1988 saw the entire refurbishment completed. The imposing façade, facing Castle Square, is 90m long, with Sigismund's Tower forming a magnificent centrepiece, flanked by two smaller spires at either end. The castle is now a national treasure, serving as a museum as well as a venue for major events such as official visits, state meetings, concerts and musical events.
Its magnificent 300 seat ballroom is a grand setting for these events, while a 180-seat concert hall serves for lectures and conferences, together with recorded playback and live musical performances. In both venues, clear speech intelligibility has proved to be an essential component - particularly during official events.
Designing and installing an audio system for this iconic venue demanded the attention of a top technical team. Leading Polish acoustician Tadeusz Fidecki PhD received a research grant from the Ministry of Science and Education for an experimental project to improve speech intelligibility with acoustical and electroacoustic treatments. Research into the ballroom's and concert hall's acoustics also became the subjects of several master theses at Warsaw University of Technology.
The building's interior - restored to its 18th-century grandeur with the aid of pre-war photographs - the ballroom's polished wood floor, mirrored and marble surfaces and its many windows amounted to a major acoustical headache.
"Given the materials used in the construction and refurbishment, as well as the sheer size of the halls, we knew the first task was to tackle the acoustics," said Tadeusz Fidecki. EASE, with the Aura module, was used to analyze the acoustics of both rooms, the team measuring an RT of over three seconds.
Renkus-Heinz's Polish distributor and system integrator, M. Ostrowski Company, were called in to provide system design, with a team headed by project and design manager Michal Poplawski and Tomasz Rudzki, scientist at The Fryderyk Chopin University of Music.
A fully digital system was specified because of the long cable runs between the halls, control rooms and main system rack, and the team's desire to provide versatile routing. Multiple combination panels in each hall make patching-in simple, and two mobile racks provide great flexibility.
To address the acoustics without physically altering or treating the opulent interior, Renkus-Heinz Iconyx IC16R digitally steerable arrays were specified for the ballroom, with two IC8R units covering the concert hall. Each Iconyx system is fed by redundant CobraNet inputs, which also allow an engineer to work with Renkus-Heinz's RHAON networking software via any combination panel. A Yamaha LS9-16 mixing console in each hall is equipped with an MY-16CII CobraNet interface card.
Given the lavish décor of each hall, it was also essential for the loudspeakers to blend in architecturally, and Renkus-Heinz finished the cabinets in a special colour, Oyster White. "The Iconyx are a perfectly architectural fit as they are almost invisible," says Poplawski, adding: "But most importantly, we're achieving STI results of about 0.65 in the main audience areas, despite the acoustics."