Polar Audio has supplied a Renkus-Heinz Iconyx loudspeaker solution to Oxford University’s Blavatnik School of Government, which first opened its doors to students in September 2012.
The school – named after the American philanthropist Leonard Blavatnik – had formerly occupied three temporary sites but recently moved into a new purpose-built facility made possible by an initial donation of £75 million. Designed by award-winning architects Herzog and de Meuron, the building has 'exceptional' environmental credentials, Polar Audio says, and every aspect of its construction is aimed at discussion, interaction and collaboration. Its large flexible teaching space and lecture theatres can cater for a wide variety of conferences, seminars, presentations and group discussions.
With AV provision an integral part of the infrastructure, the school consulted with audio-visual and acoustic consultants, Hewshott International, with regard to suitable solutions. In turn, Hewshott entered discussions with Polar Audio and drew definitive conclusions as to the best way forward. Leading integrators Snelling Business Systems were appointed to install the chosen audio system.
The school required audio provision for two large and identical Harvard-style lecture rooms. The horseshoe-style theatres are modelled to facilitate greater and closer interaction between lecturer and students, as well as offer a completely different feel to the standard type of lecture room.
The spaces also offered something of an acoustic challenge. A curved rear wall, metal-framed ceilings and wooden floors all conspired toward the creation of the sort of reverberant space that is so often the enemy of clearly intelligible audio. Therefore, the speakers were to be discreetly recessed into the presentation wall of each room, while providing the optimum acoustic coverage across the listening plane, according to the brief.
Renkus-Heinz Iconyx digitally steerable speakers were chosen for the task. On many previous occasions with Polar Audio, Iconyx has overcome the challenges presented by highly reverberant heritage sites and while The Blavatnik School was a brand new building, the issues to be addressed were, in principle, very similar. A pair of Iconyx IC-8-RII speakers (coloured to match the decor) were installed into each lecture room – their slim, low-profile design maintaining the room's aesthetic by slotting into recesses. Controlled via software to create carefully focused beams of audio into the desired listening areas and away from hard reflective surfaces, the Iconyx speakers are there to minimise reverberance and deliver audio clarity exactly where it is required.
"Our experiences of installing Iconyx into some very acoustically challenging heritage sites left us in no doubt that it was the ideal solution for the school. Although it's a brand new, state of the art building and the lecture theatres met every environmental and educational requirement, the nature of their design meant that they were significantly acoustically compromised," commented Stuart Leader, installation manager at Polar Audio. "The Iconyx speakers overcame the potential pitfalls to the great satisfaction of the client. Given that communication sits at the heart of the Blavatnik global vision, Iconyx is playing its own part in that respect by delivering audio clarity in a crucial area of the school's function."
Steve Royans, sales manager at Snelling Business Systems, added: "The School is very impressed with the qualities of the Iconyx speakers. They offer a clarity that is absolutely essential in this multi-faceted academic environment and achieve this in spite of the acoustic challenges presented by the rooms. Snelling Business Systems has a very strong ongoing relationship with POLARaudio and they were integral in the design process on this job - their assistance with the final commissioning was exceptional."
Photo: John Cairns