State-of-the-art technology improves communication and models acoustics of virtual rooms at Aarhus School of Architecture
Open for education at the end of 2021, the new School of Architecture in Aarhus, Denmark is uniquely equipped to train future architects in all elements – auditory and visual – of contemporary building design. Among the most prestigious institutions of its type in Europe, the Aarhus School of Architecture was established in 1965. Prior to the construction of the new campus, learning facilities were spread across the city in nine separate locations.
The new four-story main campus building brings all nine addresses together under one roof and leverages advanced audio-visual technologies to provide optimal classroom communication and distance learning opportunities, including a Meyer Sound Constellation acoustic system in the main auditorium which allows students to directly experience the acoustic response of various room designs. The school‘s extraordinary investment in advanced audio-visual technologies for learning was made possible through funding from the AP Møller and Chastine Mc-Kinney Møller Foundation.
Consulting and integration company Stouenborg was responsible for the design, engineering and installation of all the school’s audiovisual systems, with Anders Jørgensen as project manager. One of the main goals, according to Jørgensen, was to ensure that cutting-edge technology was applied to improve communication and not impose distracting obstacles. A prime example is the acoustic flexibility offered by Constellation, a sophisticated active acoustics system comprising 13 D-Mitri network platform modules along with 71 small full-range loudspeakers and 14 compact subwoofers.
“Here we have a large auditorium that often functions as a lecture hall,” explains Jørgensen, “and with Constellation we can create a teaching environment optimized for effortless two-way communication. This breaks up the natural flow of a presentation when you need to run a wireless microphone for student questions.With Constellation’s voice elevator and Q&A feature, you have clear two-way communication, as if you were in a small classroom.
Kristine Leth Juul, pro-rector of the Aarhus School of Architecture, appreciates the change in psychology brought about by new technology. “It supports the idea that lectures can be dialogue-based, where it becomes easy to ask questions. Students can feel safer asking questions, which gives them more courage to get involved and even stimulating heated debates, it creates more equality in the space.
Although not part of the original mission, a common understanding was quickly reached that the acoustic flexibility in Constellation could be used as a tool to strengthen the didactic basis for teaching students of architecture and giving the student an idea of what acoustics mean in an educational environment.
“Traditionally, the teaching of acoustics in schools of architecture is conceptual and visually descriptive,” explains Jørgensen. “A teacher can explain how changing a room’s size, shape, or materials will affect the acoustics of the room, but students can’t hear the differences. Now, with Constellation, different room designs can be modeled acoustically, clearly demonstrating the impact of different architectural choices on room acoustics.
A smaller learning environment, dubbed didaktek (from the Greek roots of “teaching” and “technology”) offers a different flavor of immersive learning experience with projection screens on all four walls. Each screen is paired with a Meyer Sound ULTRA-X40 speaker that locates the sound source on the active screen. If desired, audio can be moved from screen to screen, or even spatially moved anywhere in the room, using the new Spacemap Go spatial design and mixing tool based on iPad from Meyer Sound. Two USW-210P subwoofers extend bandwidth as needed for low-frequency impact.
If desired, a movable partition between the auditorium and the didaktek can be removed to form an open space that can accommodate up to 400 people. The Constellation system has special settings that allow the two rooms to also blend seamlessly into one cohesive acoustic response. .
“It is clear that the potential for using these rooms is much wider than expected because the flexibility and the acoustics are so good”, comments Kristine Leth Juul. “This means that staff members can experiment and take full advantage of the possibilities of each system. I expect this to be widely inspiring, not only for our own students, but also for the many international guests and architects who come to visit us.
Seven smaller rooms were each equipped with two Meyer Sound UP-4slim loudspeakers. “These rooms are often used to broadcast presentations or interactive seminars on Zoom or other platforms,” says Jørgensen. “Since remote vocal microphone pickup can vary widely, high intelligibility in the room was essential. With the UP-4slims we have an STI [speech transmission index] score between 0.83 and 0.92. »
The many spaces in the new building have already proven to be flexible and robust in both design and use during the week-long festivities that celebrated the opening with an architecture festival featuring Danish and international guest lectures.