Technology puts the spotlight on modern masterpieces at the Museum Barberini, Germany
Contemporary AV and lighting technology is delicately interwoven with iconic artworks to create an engaging experience to captivate all ages at the Museum Barberini, Germany.
Sitting in the Old Market Square in Potsdam, on the banks of the Havel River, the site of Germany’s newest museum was completely rebuilt after the renowned Barberini Palace was destroyed by an air raid during WW2. In 2005, the city resolved to revitalise the square and reinstate the building’s status as a cultural landmark and hub for the arts with a new museum, recreating its Roman style under the guidance of architects Hilmer & Sattler und Albrecht, with 21st century technology on hand to bring the stories behind artworks inside to life.
Beyond the baroque facade and lines of the Museum Barberini attendees can discover celebrated works from Hopper, Monet and Rothko, a nod to the palace’s past life – yet now large-scale 4K technology, HD spotlights and digital array column loudspeakers heightens the museum-going experience. “Inside it was imperative the building met the highest standard to match its exterior. Therefore we strived for perfection indoors and placed great emphasis on high-quality interior design and media technology,” explains Christian Schroeder, key account manager and project leader at ASC Berlin.
The integrator was selected to commission and execute the project following an open tender process instigated by the builder and technical designer and senior events technician Mauricio Salas Zurita in February 2016. “We were able to compete against some well-known companies in the AV sphere because of our expertise in the museum and exhibition space.” Their brief outlined the need to equip the auditorium with media and lighting technology suitable for varied events, and the media infrastructure to allow staff to safely connect displays to different points in the building on the network – all of which had to meet the standards of the building’s patron.
“It was very important to Hasso Plattner, the former SAP founder and the museum founder, to create a digital museum that is modern, innovative and interactive,” adds Schroeder. This is achieved by bringing an element of theatre into the museum space, with an iPad placed on a steele in the auditorium – a didactic tool targeted at digital natives allowing them to engage further with the artwork on the wall by discovering its background information and interpretations. What the user accesses on the iPad can then be seen on the large 4K LED ‘smart’ wall (with a pixel pitch of 1.2mm) in the room. The screen can also serve as a flexible backdrop to different events when hired privately. “Compared to other international museums, we feel the LED wall is particularly special in its cinema quality and how well received it is by visitors of all generations,” says Schroeder.
“Compared to other international museums, we feel the LED wall is particularly special in its cinema quality and how well received it is by visitors of all generations.”
A coolux media server is available to meet the AV requirements of any events taking place at the museum, as well as ensuring content for displays is fed to each one via a decentralised media player.
An Extron XTP II cross-point matrix is integrated into the overall system architecture for signal distribution, enabling the high-resolution audio and video signals to be transmitted within the museum area. Additional remote mobile displays across other floors are fed audio and video content via fibre optic cables and network nodes on the network infrastructure integrated by ASC.
Visitors can also engage with the museum as they explore its open 6-feet high rooms through their own or a rented device, with an award-winning Barberini Digital app on offer encompassing everything from a guide to navigating the museum’s exhibitions to information about its history. “Everyone gets a taste for the visit to the museum and can learn more on the spot – sometimes content is intentionally cross-generational, sometimes designed for the elderly,” says Schroeder.
“Multimedia solutions here designed to get visitors to interact with and learn more about the art here, and presenting them via social media extends the circle even more to younger generations.”
What started as a plan for a space showcasing collections and temporary exhibitions highly regarded in the international sphere, evolved into a cultural meeting place equipped for concerts, conferences, symposia, readings and roundtables during discussions with the client, planner and ASC. “For this reason the acoustics in the auditorium were optimised,” recalls Schroeder. For sound reinforcement ASC opted for VIDA L active column speakers from Kling & Freitag, each of which was positioned discreteely behind covers to the right and left of the videowall. To ensure ease of operation by staff, the central audio processor offers pre-programmed settings for voice and sound reproduction – activated via either a Crestron touch panel or a mobile digital audio mixing console. Sennheiser 5000 Series wireless microphones are additionally available when required for events.
Equipped for multilingual communication, the integrator deployed an Audipack interpreter booth and Sennheiser interpreter technology to simplify interaction between museum staff and users. “We also decided that lighting control would be supplemented by a DMX network across all three floors. This makes it possible to use light projectors and create colour-dynamic installations flexibly on the busbars in the exhibition rooms,” says Schroeder.
Lighting is an integral part of museum experience – an essential tool used not just to illuminate exhibited works, but also open up different design opportunities through changing colours whilst meeting the museum’s strict environmental criteria. In the palace’s auditorium, eight ETC Source Four LED Studio HD spotlights with 15 to 30-degree zoom tubes used, as well as four ColorSource PAR spotlights, connected to EUTRAC DataTrack busbars for different configurations – managed via a ColorSource20 light control. During exhibitions the museum’s technician is able to activate various light scenes from the Crestron touch panel, with the DMX lighting desk on offer for live events. A small ETC Irideon FPZ architectural lighting system (used in the EURTRAC busbars) was deployed by ASC in the exhibition area – chosen for its ability to illuminate artworks in a selective, accentuated manner thanks to its high colour rendering index (> 90). As 17 rooms of the museum are air conditioned to remain a constant 20°C, lighting is specifically programmed to ensure that it does not affect the room temperature.
Purposefully unpretentious by design, ASC handpicked discreet technologies that would complement the interior design – incorporating high-rise staircases of bronze, marble and Jurassic limestone and oak flooring – and architecture of the 2,200m 2 exhibition space to allow the art itself to be the focus. Therefore glare-free LED light ceilings were specified and special techniques were put in place to ensure the LED wall did not detract too much from the artworks surrounding it. “In the auditorium we were encouraged to deploy the technology as inconspicuously as possible and to give it a subtle presence,” explains Schroeder. “For example, we integrated the UHD LED wall into an understated frame made of mineral material with a front fabric gauze and integrated all the devices (loudspeakers, transmitters, antennas, etc.) into the architecture discreetly.” Schroeder notes that Leyard technology was chosen for the presentation methods it offered, usability and ability to withstand heavy usage.
The wall presented other logistical challenges for ASC’s 10-person team working on the project. “Getting all the technology to work in the videowall was a real challenge because it had to be small and compact,” comments Schroeder. He adds: “The suspension of the LED wall itself to the space supports has also caused some static problems which had to be solved. The wall (including cladding and all the additional fixtures) weighed 1.5 tonnes in total.” For this reason careful consideration had to be given to the maintenance-friendly suspension and cladding for the wall. “This cost us most of our time, but eventually we feel we solved this very well.”
The museum’s opening was staged by ASC and took place on 21 January, 2017, attended by Chancellor Angela Merkel, Bill Gates and a host of names from the political and cultural world. ASC are still on hand as a service provider for any additional maintenance or updates.
The drop in museum attendance may be a trend being felt in Germany and beyond in Europe’s cultural hotspots, yet Museum Barberini is already seeing a tangible return on investment from the meticulous planning that has gone into the three-year rebuild. “The figures speak for themselves, and so far numbers show no sign of dropping off,” says Schroeder. “Already in March, one month after the exhibition opening with special exhibitions, the museum extended the opening hours and celebrated the end of the opening exhibition on 28 May by announcing over 320,000 visitors. This kind of visitor record in four months makes the Barberini Museum a milestone in the museum landscape.”
Audipack interpreter booth
Kling & Freitag VIDA L column loudspeakers
Sennheiser 5000 Series wireless microphone system and SL Intepreter console
Yamaha QL 1 digital mixing console and BluRay player
Christie Spyder X20 video processor, Coolux Compact Player and Pandoras Box Widget Designer, Quad Player & PK1 hardware compact station
Cisco TelePresence Codec C40
Crestron AV3 control system and touch panels
Extron XTP II CrossPoint matrix switcher
Leyard TWA 4K LED (1.2mm pitch) videowall
Panasonic HD pan-tilt cameras