Understated grandeur

AUTHOR: Inavate

The new Kameha Grand hotel in Bonn defines new standards in luxury hotel architecture and boasts an installed AV and media system to match, reports Chris Fitzsimmons.

Opened in October 2009, the multi-award winning Kameha Grand Hotel combines Heinz Schommer’s cutting edge architectural design, with an understated, modern glass shell. Its low-rise shape is in contrast with the ‘race for the sky’ that its contemporaries are engaged in.
Despite this understated profile, it still boasts 254 rooms including 63 suites, and a multifunctional event space capable of holding up to 2,500 people. It also flexible meeting spaces for up to 250 people.
However, as we’ll see, its striking architecture was not without its challenges for system designer and consultant Thomas Hülsmann of Thomnet engineering, and the team from integrators CEE Media.
I caught up with Thomas by telephone, from his offices in Berlin and he explained a bit of background to the project.
“It was a real crash job! We had to deliver the whole thing from wiring diagram to installation in three months. The hotel owners originally had it in mind that the low voltage contractor had to the media engineering as well, and about three months before opening they realised that maybe this wasn’t the best idea. At that point I went to Bonn, and we started to work together. I ran a tender process to deliver the design I arrived at and CEE Media won the contract.”
Starting with the “simpler” aspects of the design first, the hotel boasts a number of meeting and conference spaces. The Rothshild and Chairman’s lounges are basic meeting rooms. Each is equipped with an Atrium motorised projection screen, paired with one of the hotel’s stock of portable Panasonic PT-LW80NTE projectors.
Slightly larger than the lounges are the conference areas. There are two of these, named Green and Spirit. These two rooms each hold around 80 people and are separated by a removable partition. They can therefore combine to form a larger space.
“The basic idea from the hotel managers,” continued Hülsmann “was that they wanted the system to be simple to manage and simple to use. They didn’t want to have many floor boxes, and they mobile media units to be used all over the building.”
These four mobile media wagons, as Hülsmann refers to them, provide basic source equipment, video switching and media control to whichever room they happen to be in at the time.
Each one contains a Yamaha EMX5016CF mixer, a beyerdynamic Opus NE900Q microphone, a Numark MP 302 CD/MP3 player, an Analog Way Tetra-VIO scaler and a Crestron MPC-M20 presentation controller. Video signals from the trolley to the projectors are actually via DVI, but due to the longer cable runs possible in the bigger spaces Hülsmann decided to use fibre. He selected Kramer 671R and 671T transmitter receiver pairs for their HDCP compliance. The wagons connect to the room by means of a 5m umbilical cable terminated with a Harting HAN-Modular system.
“We chose the Harting connectors as they are very solid. They do take up a bit of space in the floor, but they are perfect when things are being plugged and un-plugged all the time. We gave each floor box a dedicated address, and based on this the MPC in the mobile rack knows which room it has been plugged into.”
The Green and Spirit spaces boast three Panasonic PT-DW6300 E single-chip DLP projectors between them. This allows the rooms to be used in different orientations and arrangements. They are paired with three metre wide Atrium Profi Flex screens, and mounted on Kindermann Pro 120 lifts, which hide them in the ceiling when not in use.
The sound system is relatively simple. Six full range Tannoy 801 DC ceiling speakers in each room are driven by a shared Biamp AudiaFLEX DSP unit and Lab.Gruppen C10:8x amplifier on a 100v system.
“100v is a big advantage. The wiring is simple, and you can have four pairs of wires in each cable. Because this was such a quick project, I wanted some reserve in the wiring. I wanted the option to change my plan during the job. You can combine the speakers as you like, in parallel or serial. And, because they had different seating arrangements in the rooms, we ended up with total of twelve cable runs, from the AudiaFLEX to cater for them, and depending on the scenario from the MPC unit, the different arrangements are activated.”
Kameha Universal is a larger conference space for around 460 people.
“There was a bit of an issue surrounding the sound system here,” notes Thomas. “Originally, the owners didn’t want to buy a sound system, but they added one on after the system design was finished. The Meyer Sound system, consisting of eight M’elodie line array elements, is on a kind of permanent rental from CEE Media.”
They room boasts a much larger 8x5m projection screen, again by Atrium, and the projector itself is a PT-DW10000 EK full HD unit from Panasonic. Apart from this video upgrade it’s fitted to make use of the hotel’s media wagons and two Harting connection points are provided.
The Grand Event is essentially a large banqueting hall. Holding around 270 people seated, it offers direct access to the kitchens on one side, and the hotel lobby on the other.
It too is equipped with Panasonic PT-DW6300 projectors, Atrium screens and a Tannoy / Lab.Gruppen speaker-amplifier combination. There are a total of 13 Tannoy 801 ceiling speakers, divided into four or five audio zones, which helps with feedback elimination depending on the configuration of the room. A pair of Harting floor connectors give it further flexibility.
The main attraction in terms of space, appearance and technology challenges is of course the Kameha Dome. This 1350 square metre space dominates the riverside aspect of the hotel, and its roof and one wall are almost entirely glazed.
“The first time I came and saw this room, really I was a little bit scared. I mean to advise on the equipment of such a room, which had six seconds of reverb. Even though it’s now reduced to about two-and-a-half seconds with some acoustic treatment, it’s still more like an airport terminal than a hotel!
“The customer wanted me to tell him what kind of audio system he would need inside. We decided to run a shoot out, so we invited three manufacturers – Tannoy, Duran Audio and Seeburg – to compete. We had Dirk Noy from WSDG to prepare and run the shoot-out, and he wrote the report at the end.”
In the end, the result was somewhat of a tie, both systems providing excellent linearity of SPL in the space. However, the Duran Audio Axis DSX 500 columns fitted perfectly architecturally onto the struts of the Atrium side, whilst the Tannoy Qflex 48 DSP was selected to be mounted on the River Side of the space.
“Both systems sounded fantastic, the quality is excellent. Using them both was probably the right solution,” stated Hülsmann.
The final spaces are the bars and the large terrace. The Pure Gold Bar holds around 75 guests and is equipped with a 19” rack containing dbx ZonePro DSP, more Lab.Gruppen CX amplifiers and Numark CD players. There is also an Allen & Heath X:ONE dj mixer and a pair Pioneer CDJ1000MK2 CD decks. Sound reinforcement is provided by a pair of Bose Freespace 3 loudspeakers.
There is also similar equipment installed in the Yu Sushi Club and Next Level Brasserie, which holds around 250 guests.
450,000 Euros of AV equipment later, and almost a year of operation, the Hotel has been a roaring success. The designer and the hotel itself have received multiple awards from the hospitality industry.
Undoubtedly contributing to this success is the striking Dome space, with its challenging glazed environment, and its unlikely that such an acoustic puzzle would have been so readily solved without the advent of digital steering technology.
Another particularly nice detail of the project, is Hüslmann’s elegant solution for addressing each of the floor boxes. Each Crestron MPC20 unit has four digital relay inputs on it, and by setting the voltage for each input for +5v or 0v on the floor tanks he was able to create 16 unique codes, which automatically told the system which room it was located in. It’s touches such as this that always distinguish “nice” installations, from grand ones!