Based in culturally diverse Toronto, Westbury National may have been the ideal firm to take on the challenge of outfitting the diverse spaces showcasing Muslim culture at the city’s Aga Khan Museum.
Featuring an eye-catching contemporary design, the museum offers visitors an array of areas that includes two exhibition galleries, a 350-seat domed auditorium/theater, two classrooms, areas for art conservation and storage, a courtyard and more.
It’s a good thing Westbury bills itself as a pro AV solutions and full-service event and show services company, because the Aga Khan project involved a bit of “all of the above,” live event production technology for the auditorium, mixed with dazzling AV for other spaces of the museum.
And not only bringing its own expertise to the table, Westbury National collaborated with local AV design firm Engineering Harmonics, French creative consultant company On Situ, and the museum’s production manager to ensure success.
“The collaborative process … was ideal. We’ve all worked together before on numerous projects and share a common interest in producing great work for the client,” says Paul Forbes, Westbury’s account manager on the project. “On Situ,
the French company responsible for the content and creative for the pedestrian tunnel, are also very professional, very experienced and a pleasure to work with.”
Westbury got involved in the construction bid process and was awarded work at the Ismaili Centre, the other building in the complex, in January 2013, according to Forbes. Engineering Harmonics, the AV and audio consultants, had been working on the museum for about five years, he says.
The main back-and-forth involved Engineering Harmonics’ Martin VanDijk and Rafael Puello and Westbury’s Andrew Foord, director of design and engineering, senior project engineer David VanVeldhuisen and senior project manager Doug Wildeboer, according to Forbes.
1. On long-term projects it’s important to keep track of any technological advancements that could improve the results.
2. Communication, coordination and collaboration are vital on projects involving many trades and teams.
3. Put yourself in the shoes of the end user and whoever might be responsible for operating all of the technology.
End User Takeaways:
1. Take chances and create visual appeal even in places where it may seem unconventional.
2. Plan twice, build once, according to Westbury National’s Paul Forbes.
3. Unobtrusiveness may not be easiest to design and integrate, but the chal-lenges are worth it.
Projection: Christie; Gallery speakers: Amina, Innovox; Occupancy sensors: Leviton; Controls: Crestron; Auditorium sound: Meyer Sound, JBL, Renkus-Heinz, Crown; Audio mixing: DiGiCo; Cameras: Panasonic; Paging: Rane; Lighting: ETC
From a visual perspective, the pedestrian tunnel might be the crown jewel of the entire installation yet visitors would be hard-pressed to find it on the museum’s website. However, it is among the first things they will encounter (if parked in the garage), and it sets an impressive stage for all of the other stunning, colorful art and artifacts to be found inside.
“The pedestrian tunnel transitions from a typical underground parking lot into the museum, and I believe it was the client who decided the lower entrance should be equally compelling and beautiful as the main (ground level) entrance,” Forbes says. “The content and its management are the proprietary creation of On Situ … and definitely meets the client’s criteria.”
Instead of the usual nondescript passageways that link parking garages to tourist attractions, “the tunnel,” as it is simply called, is a 100-foot long hallway featuring the blended imagery of 11 Christie projectors beamed onto the wall, in what can only be described considering the surroundings as essentially a massive electronic art mural.
The tunnel also proved to be among the most challenging aspects. Apart from the technical nature of seamlessly blending 11 projectors, the team had to take into account the hallway’s sloping walls (the ceiling becomes lower as visitors near the museum entrance), concealing the projectors, and providing for ventilation and maintenance of the projectors.
Hidden behind the wall opposite the projection, a hard-to-spot cutout allows for the projection mirror system to work; meanwhile, other design elements extract heat away to ensure system longevity and enable access for chores like swapping out projector lamps, according to Wildeboer.
Adds Forbes, “The pedestrian tunnel is probably the most compelling application of technology, but I think what [the museum brass] admire most is that most of the technology throughout the building is either hidden or very inconspicuous, and yet has also been designed to be easy to service.”
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Video impact continues inside, with a 40-foot-wide video wall, produced by three Christie projectors, greeting visitors at the entrance to the galleries and offering a taste of what’s on exhibit. On the main gallery wall there is a depiction of a world map onto which two synchronized Christie projectors highlight specific regions and historical events associated with them, according to Westbury’s Brock McGinnis, giving visitors an interactive history lesson that combines both static display and motion video. The gallery spaces themselves include motion-activated audio, triggered when visitors approach certain displays and silent when no one is present.
Then there’s the elegant, woodwork-in-fused auditorium, which hosts everything from lectures to live performances to screenings to special events and broadcasts. To cover all bases, Westbury integrated AV, lighting and control systems including a projection system, HD cameras, plug-in points throughout, surround sound and control booth, McGinnis says.
The control booth for the lighting, video and audio operators is at the back, while other gear gets routed to a full AV equipment rack housed backstage. Westbury worked with North Carolina-based designer Theatre Consultants Collaborative Inc. on integrating the lighting, which is 99 percent LED.
Microphone connectivity, paging and CATV keep performers and organizers in contact with and apprised of what’s happening backstage, in the audience and in the lobby, while Crestron systems tie together control of things.