The Blavatnik School of Government is part of the University of Oxford. The school first opened its doors to students in September 2012. Oxford announced the launch of the school in 2010 in the presence of American philanthropist, Leonard Blavatnik, whose gift enabled the creation of an institution whose vision is directed towards a better led, better served and better governed world. Mr Blavatnik is a leading American industrialist resident in the UK, whose foundation has provided substantial support for revered institutions such as The Royal Opera House, the Tate and the National Portrait Gallery.
Until now the school has occupied three temporary sites but as of late 2015, will move 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 and every aspect of its construction is aimed at discussion, interaction and collaboration. Its large flexible teaching space and lecture theatres can cater for the widest possible variety of conferences, seminars, presentations and group discussions.
Naturally in an educational hothouse such as this, AV provision is an integral part of the infrastructure and the school consulted with audio-visual and acoustic consultants, Hewshott International, with regard to suitable solutions. In turn, Hewshott entered discussions with POLAR 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. Taking their name from the great American institution, these horseshoe style lecture theatres are modelled to facilitate greater and closer interaction between lecturer and students and offer a completely different feel to the standard type of lecture room. Whilst the Harvard-style design complemented The Blavatnik School's vision of discussion, interaction and collaboration, 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. The brief for the system was clear. The speakers were to be discreetly recessed into the
presentation wall of each room, whilst providing the optimum acoustic coverage across the listening plane.
Renkus-Heinz Iconyx speakers were chosen as the solution. POLAR's installation team has enjoyed a great deal of success designing systems around these digitally steerable line-array loudspeakers. On many occasions, Iconyx has overcome the challenges presented by highly reverberant heritage sites and whilst 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 (colourcoded to match the decor) were installed into each lecture room, their slim, low-profile design maintaining the room's aesthetic by merging easily into recesses. Controlled via software to create carefully focussed beams of audio into the desired listening areas of the room and away from hard reflective surfaces, the Iconyx speakers minimise reverberance to deliver audio clarity exactly where it is required.
Stuart Leader, Installation Manager at POLAR reviews another Iconyx success:
"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. 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 POLAR and they were integral in the design process on this job - their assistance with the final commissioning was exceptional."
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