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Solutions: Italian cultural venue installs integrated AV system

A 17th century building has been transformed into a cutting-edge cultural space. Mike Clark looks at how technology has been sensitively integrated into this minimalist venue.

Although the mention of the Adriatic town of Rimini probably brings to mind its sunny beaches or its trendsetting disco of the 1970s and ’80s, it also has a fascinating cultural and historical heritage dating back to ancient Roman times and further.

A unique venue recently inaugurated in the Italian resort offers an interesting combination of past and present, integrating art, wellness and fitness in a 17th century former residence of local nobility.

Augeo was designed by Yasmine Mahmoudieh from London and local architecture studio Cumo Mori Roversi, and its almost totally white stylish minimalist structure conceals an incredible amount of AV and building automation, installed by San Marino system integrator Planet Service.

The company’s ‘Custom Technology’ permanent installation team was led by Raffaello Reali (sales manager), Massimiliano Maioli (project manager, installer and worksite manager) and Certified Crestron Programmer Andrea Borelli.

Reali explains: “Our technical interfaces with the clients were the venue’s artistic manager Matteo Sormani and Filippo Migani of M Progetti studio.

“The technology installed was based on the client’s technical/operational and economic requests, as well as the result of an in-depth search for digital units with high connectivity and control possibilities that were stable and ensured the possibility of also controlling the lighting and the equipment in the area spa/gym area.”

Visitors arriving from the secluded courtyard enter the ground floor lounge bar and art gallery, which also hosts a DJ console for the wide variety of events hosted, and are met by large-scale projections. This is courtesy of a pair of NEC PA600X 6000 ANSI lumen video projectors screening videos (often part of the multimedia exhibits hosted by the gallery) on the walls.

Music can either be background music from internet radio, playlists on PC or the DJ console, manned for special events. Selection is via iPad 2 in docking stations operating in WiFi mode. These are also used to regulate audio volume and control Viabizzuno lighting in the various areas, as well as automation (from the building’s KNX-based system).

The lighting fixtures by Viabizzuno installed at Augeo include Campana Brembana, Poppy Terra, Mon Amour and Trasparenze. Lighting control is courtesy of a Crestron lighting distribution and control set-up featuring an automation processor, a rail distribution block, two rail distribution hubs, 14 DIN rail-mounted 4-channel dimmer modules and 11 8-channel lighting control modules.

The lounge bar and art exhibition areas can interact via two wall panels (with audio and HDMI digital or VGA analogue video connections), which also enable external sources to be connected locally. Audio volume in the various areas can be regulated independently and the video signals sent to one or both video projection systems. Connection is also via the DJ console, where an MacBook Pro can be used to feed out PowerPoint, films and so on. Two other video sources are BrightSign HD220 multimedia players, which can play out logos, backgrounds and images when necessary.

Reali continues: “Since the venue is located in a classified historical building, the internal design was preceded by careful restoration, conducted under the watchful eye of the Monuments and Fine Arts Department.

“From a technical point of view, the distinguishing feature of this project is the completely digital building automation system controlling all the audio, video projection, ambient and architectural lighting functions, as well as the functions in the Wellness area, with great interaction between the venue’s various zones – Art Gallery, Spa and Gym.”

Signal management is completely selectable for each environment, with the possibility of controlling all areas simultaneously or feeding the same signals anywhere.

Relaxation rooms

The basement (once the home’s storerooms) houses the spa and gym areas, as Sormani explains: “The former features sauna, hammam (Turkish bath), various types of massage areas, waterfall showers and ‘emotional showers’, a programmable combination of water and aromatherapy with a variety of fragrances.”

The AV equipment racks are located in the technical room in the gym area.

Here, as in almost all the zones of the venue, clients and trainers have a Crestron touchscreen at their disposal to select internet radio, playlist on SDs (played by the venue’s Apart multi-source players) or they can connect an external audio source and listen music of their choice.

The fitness area’s dressing rooms also have their own wall-mounted Crestron Cameo keypads for controlling audio and lighting presets.

Maioli continues: “To amplify the sound in the Augeo’s spa area corridor, we installed eight SolidDrive SD-1 transducers in the wall cavities, with excellent results as far as intelligibility and volume control were concerned. SolidDrive’s patented transducer technology can turn almost any drywall, glass, wood, ceramic or laminate surface into a speaker.”

Borelli continues: “For automation, we deployed Crestron’s DigitalMedia system, which allowed us to use a flexible advanced 4K ultra-high-definition AV signal routing solution via Cat6 cables; a Biamp Nexia matrix, controlled by the Crestron system, ensures great audio routing flexibility, enabling audio signals from any of the various sources used (players, PCs, internet radio, etc) to be fed anywhere in the building.”

Reali opines: “Fortunately, in this case, the owners – entrepreneur brothers Sergio and Luca Antolini – and the architects realised the great opportunities offered by building automation, even in a venue focused on wellness and art, completely unrelated to anything technological. Unfortunately, in Italy, in my opinion, this ‘culture’ has not yet been assimilated by players such as technical and system design studios or electrical contractors.

“Building automation reduces systems’ programmed obsolescence, offering the possibility of upgrading software with new functions, without the need to replace any hardware.”

The entire AV control and distribution set-up was designed and installed by Planet Service’s specialist team and, thanks to the discreet slimline Apart Sublime and Subtile subwoofers and the numerous compact wall-mounted Apart Mask loudspeakers, the audio system is almost invisible. In addition, the small wall-mounted local control panels strategically located throughout (Crestron TPMC-3SMDWS and TPMC-4SMD touchscreens and Crestron C2NI-CB keypads) ensure hard-to-beat flexibility – truly convincing proof of Reali’s opinions.