Banking on training
When the Unicredit Group looked to improve its managerial training resources with a new centre in Turin, it turned to renowned architect Matt Taylor and a technical team of Claudio Mazzucchelli and Prase Engineering to come up with an appropriate technology solution.
Italy’s Unicredit Group is one of the top ten financial institutions in Europe, with origins that can be traced back to the 15th century, a network spanning fifty countries worldwide and operations in twenty countries with 7,200 branches, 142,000 employees and 35 million customers in Europe alone (2006 figures).
Working on the philosophy that the long-term development of a great group is based on the role played by its managers, Unicredit recently inaugurated the UniManagement Centre in Turin, a focus point for refining its key resources’ managerial skills. At the opening, group CEO Alessandro Profumo said, "We are not just inaugurating this training institute for Italy, but for the group as a whole. Fourteen thousand people from twenty countries will pass through these doors to be trained to guide us to growth.”
Behind the austere façade of one of the most illustrious historic buildings in the centre of Turin, attendees are hosted in a unique facility, which occupies the entire third floor and a 1,600 square metre space on the ground floor, designed by US architect Matt Taylor.
Taylor is the creator of the idea of the "NavCenter® System", a facility built onsite at a client's location with all the essential elements of environment, process and tools found in an MG Taylor Management Center, but used for the sole benefit of the organization.
The ground floor features a unique combination of cutting edge technology and Taylor’s impressive wood armature, inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s “flying machine”, as Taylor explained, "I do not often employ direct, highly referential, symbolism in my work because such an approach can easily become trite. In the case of the UniCredit centre, considering its mission, its use and location, the reference to Leonardo and flight is compelling".
This area also hosts Taylor-designed “pods”, workwalls (huge whiteboards) and “trees”.
Before describing the facility, Gabriele Torretta of Unicredit’s Human Resources Strategy Department explains his official role: “A facilitator helps adults to learn, and I’m part of a team of about twenty, between Turin and Milan.”
Unimanagement knew exactly what they wanted to accomplish with the technology designed by the combined forces of Unicredit’s UGIS in-house technical team, Claudio Mazzucchelli and Prase Engineering and installed by Meeting Project and Telesystem (the project’s main contractor was IBM).
The first “must” was the complete elimination of the conventional classroom format, as Torretta continues, “As well as large plenary groups hundred hosted under the armature, numerous small groups have to work completely independently, so require all the necessary hardware for projecting PowerPoint presentations and videos, as well as recording and storing everything, as we also use our systems to create a knowledge archive that can be put at everybody’s disposal in the form of reports and is available for future use.”
From the outset, utmost flexibility was therefore the keynote. This was easily achieved as far as furniture was concerned and facilitated by the use of the “trees” and pods (self-contained offices/work centres on wheels), but a solution had to be found for the fact that the points from which operators have to access the AV network in fact change along with events’ formats.
Torretta continues, “As far as the need for technology was concerned, the aim of having everything everywhere was no easy objective to achieve, but what we did was ensure that the Cobranet and Magenta Research systems installed were accessible throughout with Cat 6 cabling. Wherever there’s a network socket, you just connect an interface and you’re up and running. This was the first revolution compared to conventional set-ups. This is the first installation in Europe with 64 channels of VGA cabled directly in Cat 6 for transporting signals over considerable distances.”
Nicola Lucritano of the in-house technical team continues, “There’s a large Magenta Research Mondo Matrix router in the equipment room that enables to send signals of any type anywhere – RGBHV – S-Video - DVI and HDMI- and we’ve got 128 multimedia connection points on the ground floor alone, so whatever AV unit you have, you can arrive, plug in and you’re connected with the control room.”
Even veteran system designer Claudio Mazzucchelli was taken aback by the brief he received from the UGIS technical team, as he explains, “Initially, it would have taken almost two hours to reconfigure the system to adapt to a new event, but they wanted the system had to be ready to run in the time it took to move the seating! We managed to satisfy their incredibly tight turnaround times thanks to the use of audio/video processors with presets enabling immediate reconfiguration of the multimedia functions.”
Torretta continues; “Our technical team – including Nicola and Stefano Giovenale - worked on the system for over sixth months, gathering all the data on what was needed and our programmer programmed a series of presets for the most frequent set-ups, which can be called up at the touch of a button and fine-tuned to satisfy any variations. The control system is also installed on a touch panel that can also be used with a wireless link.”
For the large groups gathered under the armature, with the speaker in the centre and participants all around, sessions are truly immersive, thanks to the impressive array of AV hardware installed.
The main Tannoy audio system comprises a main centre cluster with six V8 enclosures, four (L&R) V12 enclosures, four VS15 BP subwoofers, and two series of Arena delay speakers: one with eight and the other with twelve.
Mazzucchelli explans the choice of loudspeaker enclosures, “Thanks to the use of loudspeaker enclosures with point source Dual Concentric technology, we achieved excellent intelligibility results in an environment that was anything but ideal from an acoustic point of view.”
The powerhouse, which can be controlled via Wi-Fi touchscreen, consists in seven MC 2 T 1000 and six Bittner 8x100 eight-channel power amplifiers and signal management and distribution is via Biamp’s AudiaFLEX digital audio platform, based on two CM (Cobranet Modules).
The Sabine wireless mic system includes four SW72-NDR two-channel receivers with network & digital interface, six handheld mics, eight Voice Technologies lavaliers and four Voice Technologies headworn mics, The microphones and various audio media players are mixed using a Yamaha LS9 32 digital console (as well as cooking sessions, attendees alternate work groups with spontaneous music playing – also recorded!)
In addition to the Tannoy system, twenty eight Soundtube SM500i are used for background music and PA purposes.
Projection in the main groundfloor area is courtesy of four Barco IRD 600 projectors and five Projection Design F1 + SXGA units and screen are five Adeo Group transparent 2.65x2.00m screens and four rigid 2.00 x 1.50m models. The video’s surround effect is further accentuated by eight Panasonic 42" HD plasma screens forming a plasma wall, eight more mounted on the armature and eight installed elsewhere, plus four Panasonic TH 37 PWD 8K / S 37” plasma screens.
The video team has a Panasonic AG-MX70 video mixer at its disposal, plus six Panasonic quad split generators, two Panasonic multiplexers, two Panasonic camera controllers six Kramer video distributors. Eight Benq FP 241 W 24” LCD are used for preview, program, REC and CCTV monitoring with two Panasonic WV CM 1020 G preview and program monitors.
Apart from live camera coverage of the centre’s events, sources include an Alcorn McBride DVM 2D digital video machine + DVD, a Pioneer CD/DVD player, a Samsung integrated DVD – VHS, two Pioneer DVD + VHS recorders and a Sony MINI DV player. The hub of the video distribution network is a pair of Magenta Research Mondo Matrix routers: a video 32x32 Cat 6 + audio and a 32x32 RGBHV Cat 6 + audio.
There are ten “trees” at the centre, complete AV centres on wheels to all effects, able to be easily moved between floors. The “Master” units are the most complete and are equipped with a Canon PTZ camera mounted above three Benq 19” monitors, below which a Tannoy I Line 500 loudspeaker enclosure is mounted on either side of a Panasonic 50” plasma screen and powered by an APart PA2120MK II power amp. The trees’ racks also host a Kramer presentation switcher and computer graphics/HD/TV scaler with picture-in-picture, Extron distributor and MAV 48 4x8 V composite video and stereo audio matrix switcher and a Biamp Nexia CS 10:6 digital audio router. There is also an on-board Clockaudio CW9000 radio microphone system, complete with body pack for Handy Cam TX – RX, handheld mic and Lavalier mic. The kit is completed by a pair of Magenta Research receivers (an MV250 and an AK500) and two UTX transmitters.
As well as the Canon PTZ cameras mounted on the master trees and four Panasonic Handy Cams, the facility also has eight Panasonic PTZ dome cameras and sixteen Panasonic DSP cameras with fixed lenses.
Although English is the “lingua franca” at the learning centre, there is also a Danish Interpretation Systems CS 6000, which combines conference, voting and interpretation facilities and comprises a chairman and nine delegate mics, eight interpreter sets with relative headsets and eight infrared radiators strategically positioned in and around the armature.
A spectacular glass and steel elliptical spiral stairway and two adjacent elevators (alongside an indoor mini-park, complete with a stream and benches) connects the ground floor and the 2,750 square metre third floor area, but the latter, which hosts learning and development areas, break areas and events and activities management offices, is also cabled throughout to ensure 2-way connection with the rest of the facility, as Mazzucchelli explains, “This enables any event staged on either floor to be followed in any of the other rooms and allows immediate access to all recorded material. It’s also possible to record all the events staged in a format viewable via a normal browser.”
Concluding, Mazzucchelli enthused. “We were able to meet all the requirements of this complex facility, thanks to the combination of the most innovative distribution technologies available - Biamp Audia and Magenta Research Mondo Matrix.”