Given its location next to the world-famous motor-racing circuit at, Silverstone, and its name, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Porsche Experience Centre was solely about getting behind the wheel of a fast car. While that’s certainly on offer, it’s only one of the ways in which Porsche Cars GB wants visitors to get closer to the brand.
Yes, the centre has its own track, for testing cars and training drivers, but the heart of the building is a large atrium-style display area, used for Porsche product launches and available for corporate hire. It’s here that visitors can get acquainted with the latest models in a relaxed environment. In addition, a frequently refreshed selection of historic cars is on display.
If that’s not enough, there’s a sports science lab, or Human Performance Centre – featuring a heat chamber that can simulate desert climates – which enables drivers to gauge their fitness, and develops fitness programmes for them.
Finally, like many a corporate centre, there are meeting and conference rooms, as well as a high-end restaurant, overlooking the display area from the first floor.
As well as looking out over Porsche’s own track, the centre has clear views onto the southern section of the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit. IE’s visit coincided with a launch event for the new Brawn GP Formula 1 team – so when we heard the whine of F1 engines, it was off to the roof terrace to catch a glimpse of the BGP 001 car that has since proved so successful for Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello.
Porsche Cars GB already had a connection with the division of Bose that makes audio systems for cars, so the audio manufacturer was an obvious first port of call.
“They knew we had the right tools and technologies,” explains John Sabell, manager of Bose’s Professional Systems division. “I took the brief, and worked with Rob Brooks, our senior design engineer, and put forward a proposal based on the usage of each of the areas around the centre.”
Not surprisingly, then, the audio at the centre is supplied entirely by Bose, alongside video equipment mainly from JVC and control from Creston.
Sabell adds: “We had to think about how best you would use the facility, and how to put everything on a control platform so, very easily, you could call them up each of the different zones and patch things through in a simplistic manner. They don’t have any AV staff here so it all has to be very user-friendly.”
In the atrium-style presentation area, everyday audio duties are undertaken by Panaray 502A speakers and MB12 bass speakers, as well as MA12 line-array column speakers arranged in pairs either side of two JVC LCD screens.
Sabell explains the choice of the MA12s: “Because you’ve got a very high roof and quite reverberant space, by using line arrays we keep the sound levels down, we have minimal dispersion in the vertical plane, but maintain very wide coverage and an extremely high degree of intelligibility.”
For special events such as product launches, two high-energy long-throw LT 9400 speakers and an LT MB24 bass speaker fill the space with sound – increasing the flexibility of the centre.
The area where music is probably used the most is the Human Performance Centre, where athletes and Porsche customers can listen to music from their iPods over four DS100 SE full-range speakers.
The most flexible space is the auditorium, which can seat up to 80 people, and can be used in both boardroom and theatre style. As one wall consists of large doors opening onto the car park, vehicles can be easily brought inside if required. Sound – delivered via two Panaray 502As and an MB12 bass speaker – vision, lighting and blinds in this room are under Crestron control.
Crestron also features in the boardroom. Once users have chosen to use either the projector or the LCD screen (both JVC), the Bose technology automatically calls up the appropriate audio configuration to match.
A variety of Bose entertainment and surround-sound systems feature in the conference and meeting rooms. In addition, the first-floor gallery features four Bose 131 speakers, and on the roof terrace, eight planters each conceal a FreeSpace 360P in-ground speaker.
As you’d expect, a setup of this complexity and flexibility requires a considerable amount of audio management – namely four ControlSpace CC16 zone controllers, three CC64 control centres and two ESP-88 audio processors.
One use of the latter is to change the time alignment on the DS100 speakers in the upstairs gallery restaurant to synchronise with the MA12 line arrays downstairs when the space is in ‘presentation mode’. “It’s just done at the press of a button,” says Sabell. “The ESP-88 is a very clever little beast.”
“We had to think about how best Porsche would use the facility, and how to put everything on a control platform so, very easily, they could call up each of the zones and patch things through,” concludes Sabell.
The project was installed by Foresight AV. Sabell says the design was integrator friendly: “We designed it, we spec’ed it and did all the wiring schedules – it was pretty straightforward for Foresight. We insisted that they used multicores rather than having a lot of wires all over the place. There are DIN rail connectors and adaptor boxes so that it’s easy and neat to patch, and everything is ID’d professionally.”
The parent company is reportedly so pleased with the Silverstone centre that it is likely to be the template for similar Porsche Experience centres in other countries. So, Porsche, if you’re looking for anyone to make a comparison…