Artistic license for museum

The recent Sinus awards at this year’s prolight+sound featured the Zentrum Paul Klee Centre, which was one of the three winners. Here we report in greater detail about this stunning installation in Switzerland.

Orson Welles famously quoted ‘In Switzerland they had brotherly love, five hundred years of democracy and peace, and what did they produce? The cuckoo clock.' Well, not quite. For starters, the cuckoo clock is German. And what of the cheese, the banks, the chocolate, the mother of all penknives and Ursula Andress? The country also spawned a considerable number of architects and artists, the most revered of whom, among the Swiss at least, is Paul Klee. So revered, in fact, that when the decision was made to build a museum to hold four thousand of his paintings, only an architect as great as Renzo Piano, the mind behind the Pompidou Centre, would serve. Funding came from a combination of public donation, the Canton of Berne, and the Müller Foundation (MMMF). The latter, a charitable foundation of a family that made their fortune from prosthetic body joints, were a significant driving force in realising this ambitious and expensive public centre.

A priority for the Klee, and the Müller foundation, was to implement the combination of fine arts with music, which resulted in two rooms filled with audio equipment, the Auditorium and the Forum. The Auditorium is used mostly for jazz, some classical and modern classical and for conferencing events. The installed PA system is all from German manufacturer d&b audiotechnik, with a Yamaha DM2000 desk and the German Nexus Systems, though TiMax is sometimes used for spatial audio modelling.

The main Auditorium uses a 12:2 surround sound system of d&b Ci60s, Ci90s, Ci80s plus a Q10 and E12 subwoofers, all driven by d&b D12 amplifiers. The designed intention is to use this system for mainly electronic music performances and conferences. Transmission uses MADI protocol to the Nexus router and d&b’s ROPE C remote software. The routing for all audio is through the Nexus, none of that happens in the desks, leaving them free for just mixing purposes (there are for example, eight dedicated channels of installed microphone feeds for ‘ambient’ recordings). The Forum on the other hand is primarily for dinner and conferencing functions and uses a Yamaha DM1000, again with distributed Ci-Series loudspeaker from d&b audiotechnik controlled via the Nexus router.

Christian Simmen of John Lay, the museum’s supervising architects, Erwin Schenk the technical manager for Zentrum Paul Klee and other concerned parties, listened to the d&b installation at the Konzert and Congress Centre (KCC) in Luzerne, liked it, and consequently specified a d&b system for the centre.

John Lay Electronics, as the main contractor, also insisted the company awarded the PA installation contract should include the provision of all system planning, all cabling and wireless systems, microphones, infrastructure, everything, and the installer should also provide and implement a training regime for the eventual managers of the museum. “All John Lay wanted to hear was, ‘It’s all in one house’,” said Daniel Meyer of 2M Audio who supplied and installed the entire system. They also provided the requisite training and appointed Andy Bauman to manage the project on their behalf. An independent systems designer, Bauman was the technical planner behind the extensive networking and routing facilities installed by the same company at the KCC. “The hard work was all in the planning”, said Bauman. “We did get prior access to influence the construction process and negotiate some cable ducting. Originally the architect forbade this idea, but fortunately we did manage to have them built in, reducing loudspeaker runs from one hundred and fifty metres to somewhere between sixty and seventy metres. The acoustics are not too easy, the Forum especially is a difficult shape. We’ve put wall curtains into the main auditorium to make it drier when classical concerts are performed without use of the PA system; and experimented with various reverbs for modern music that does use the loudspeaker system.”

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