More than 130 years have passed since St Katherine's College opened its doors in Tottenham. It was the first of eight colleges that eventually came together as Middlesex Polytechnic in 1973.
Two further decades passed before the Polytechnic was granted university status by royal assent. In the intervening years, Middlesex University has become a world-class institution with campuses in Dubai, Malta and Mauritius adding to its extensively re-developed Hendon site. The remodelling of an underused quadrangle situated around previously isolated wings of the College Building has completely changed the face of the Hendon Campus and has transformed the space by means of a strikingly modern and innovative glass roof. Part of a phased £14 million masterplan, this newly created area is used throughout the year for a number of special events and presentations.
It is often the case that audio-integrators are challenged by the vagaries of highly reverberant spaces in heritage settings, whilst modern buildings tend towards being more sympathetic by virtue of their design and building materials.
The Sir Raymond Rickett Quadrangle at Middlesex University, whilst a brilliantly conceived modern architectural development, unavoidably fell into the category of 'acoustically challenging'. The overall shape and proliferation of glass, key to incorporating the quad within the College Building, would inevitably present problems in terms of amplified sound. Given that a major part of the Quad's function would be to stage events such as presentations and events, audio provision in the space needed careful consideration.
In 2015 POLARaudio's Installation Division partnered with Roche Audio Visual to work on designing a dedicated audio system capable of dealing with the challenges of Middlesex University's new but acoustically demanding space. Roche had been invited by the university to propose a solution and had identified Renkus-Heinz and Biamp as the ideal combination of brands to meet the requirements. The project was given the go-ahead and was undertaken during the summer break of 2016.
Key to the success of the project was the 'beam-steering' capabilities of 4 x Renkus-Heinz ICL-R and 2 x IC215S loudspeakers. The Renkus-Heinz ICONYX range is a compact, powerful and sophisticated system that delivers incredible performance at the same time as blending discreetly into its surroundings. Each ICONYX module is individually controlled by its own built-in digital processor and amplifier, offering a tailored performance for venue and audience in a way that would be unachievable using conventional technology. Effectively, the ICONYX speakers place the sound only where it is required and away from the reflective surfaces that create problems. In the Quadrangle, it was decided that the whilst the overall system infrastructure would be permanent, the speakers should not be installed in a fixed position. The reasons for this decision were twofold.
As well as being able to remove them when not in use, the speakers could thus be deployed in different positions in the space depending on how it was to be configured for stage and audience. The wide variety of events to be staged, would require significantly different set ups and flexibility was key. For each different configuration (and subsequently different speaker position) a pre-set could be changed within the ICONYX loudspeaker to deliver precise audio for that particular setting.
Having first installed dedicated network links throughout the College Building to enable Cobranet communication between system rack and speaker stack, a Biamp Tesira Server was installed.
Tesira's DSP provides extensive audio processing including signal routing and mixing, filtering, dynamics and delay, as well as control, monitoring and diagnostic tools. All of these elements are configured through the Tesira designer software. POLARaudio programmers carried out specialist DSP configuration to provide the required equalisation and audio dispersion.
A Mackie DL32R digital mixing console was supplied as well as a beyerdynamic OPUS wireless microphone system with facility for 4 handheld, 2 lapel and 2 headset transmitters. The DL32R works with the intuitive Master Fader iPad app enabling an operator to move freely around a space to obtain the best possible mix. The combination of products selected for the installation presents the technicians at the university with a highly flexible system. Easy to set up and providing clear, high quality audio for any type of event, these positive results have been achieved within a highly demanding space.
POLARaudio Director of Installation Stuart Leader summed up the success of another significant higher education project: "Middlesex University are delighted with their new system and we were pleased to be involved from the outset partnering Roche AV. The success of the Renkus-Heinz ICONYX range in overcoming this kind of difficult space has been proven time and again. Whilst the function and nature of the quad meant that a flexible system was essential, the audio quality is in no way compromised and the elegant nature of the speaker stacks, when in position, does not detract from the aesthetic. Having been configured by our expert team, the Biamp Tesira system offers complete and straightforward control of signal processing for whatever audio function the university requires. Should Middlesex decide to add any further AV provision, the infrastructure will allow them to do so easily."