Luxury hotel prioritises quality for performance spaces

An iconic piece of 1960s Israeli architecture has been revitalised as the luxury Elma Arts Hotel in Zichron Ya’akov. Anna Mitchell explores an AV installation that has brought performance spaces to life with systems integrator Barkai.

A crumbling state-run sanatorium for overworked Israeli public sector workers was recently transformed into a luxury hotel and arts venue. The revival was sparked when the Zichron Ya’akov site was purchased by art collector and philanthropist Lily Elstein.

The building was designed in 1968 by Israeli architect Jacob Rechter for the Mivtachim Pension Fund who opened it as the Mivtachim sanatorium. Back then the brutalist structure housed modest guest rooms built to meet socialist ideals and allow workers a break from the stresses of their jobs. 

It shut in 2004 and seemed destined for demolition until a year later Elstein’s purchase offered some hope for the rundown structure. Ground works started in 2007 but due to some planning issues the project stalled. In 2010 Amnon Rechter (son of Jacob Rechter) and architect Rani Ziss came on board and a design - that preserved the exterior and refurbished large parts of the building - was settled on and work restarted. The new hotel would incorporate 80 rooms, a concert hall, events space, an art gallery, restaurants and spa. 

“Quality was built into the specification and we kept to this all the way through the installation.”
A tender for AV equipment in the Elma Hall, the main concert hall, and a smaller entertainments space, called The Cube, was published based on a specification designed by New York firm Artec Consultants. During the installation period Artec was purchased by Arup.

In addition to performance areas some AV equipment was also installed in a meeting space that can be used as one area or divided into two rooms. Here Crestron control, projection technologies and in-table microphones managed by a Biamp Tesira system were installed.

An acoustic consultant from Artec/Arup undertook extensive modelling of the Elma Hall and the Cube to create a detailed installation plan. The consultant continued to be involved throughout the installation process, commissioning phase and handover. 

After a bidding process Israeli integrator Barkai landed the contract to supply and install AV systems throughout the building. “The specification detailed brands that we were very experienced and comfortable in using,” notes Shy Kadmon, VP of technology at Barkai. 

The focus on luxury that was upheld in the redevelopment of the site extended to the AV systems. “Quality was built into the specification and we kept to this all the way through the installation,” adds Kadmon.

Barkai worked on the site at various times throughout the course of an entire year to fit in with other teams working at the Elma Art Hotel. “We were in during the early stages to install cabling then most of our work was carried out as the hotel neared completion. In the last few weeks we were on the site full time,” says Kadmon.

Crestron was selected for distribution and control with Barkai deploying a Crestron DigitalMedia system throughout the complex. The sound systems were based on Meyer Sound technologies and a Clear Com intercom system was deployed. Both spaces rely on ListenIR for assistive listening systems and equipment was housed in Middle Atlantic racks.

Elma Hall

elma-hall-5Originally the Elma Hall was set to be a 1,200 seat auditorium. However, when work resumed in 2007 it was scaled down to a 450 seat space (depending on configuration). Quality still remained central and the most unique element in the Elma Hall was to be a new pipe organ designed and built for the space by Bonn, Germany-based Orgelbau Klais. The addition of an organ is very unusual in Israel particularly outside of a church building and an organ recital is held here once a month.

The space was designed as a ‘Shoebox’ concert hall and its acoustics can be manipulated with 25 acoustic banners on the left and right walls as well as a modular stage with acoustic curtains and panels.

“Multipurpose venues sometimes lack the right people, equipment and facilities to allow them to work how they should. The Elma Arts hotel ensured they avoided these problems.”

The Meyer Sound system in this space comprises Ultra Series UPA-1P loudspeakers, UPQ-1P self-powered loudspeakers, MM4XP miniature loudspeakers and UMS-1P subwoofers. A Meyer Sound surround sound cinema system was also installed based on HMS10 units. Barkai also delivered Meyer Sound MJF212 and MJF210 stage monitors. The audio manufacturer’s Galileo loudspeaker management system was also deployed.

Barkai delivered a DiGiCo SD9 digital mixing console and Shure wireless microphone system with DSP handled by Biamp Nexia. 

A Christie projector is housed in a ceiling lift and fires on to a DaLite projection screen. Panasonic broadcast quality PTZ cameras were installed. Using fibre optic infrastructure, performances in the Elma Hall can also be broadcast to The Cube and outdoor spaces. Samsung LCD displays are also used in the area.

Control is powered by a Crestron CP3 control processor and accessed via a Crestron TSW 1050 control panel or Apple iPad. 

The Cube

The Cube was originally designed as multipurpose space but during the installation process the hotel realised it didn’t have a nightclub style venue suitable for bands. Barkai responded with a change to the loudspeaker specification which offered more power for applications that required them. “There was to be no compromise on quality,” remarks Kadmon.

It houses approximately 150 people seated or 280 standing. In addition to its role as a multipurpose performance space it is also used to stage rehearsals for the main area.
Like the Elma Hall, The Cube has a Meyer Sound system with additional bass delivered by Meyer Sound USW-1P subwoofers. Barkai also used Ultra Series UPA-1P loudspeakers alongside self-powered UPM-1P cabinets. The same stage monitors (MJF212 and Meyer MJF210) were used as the Elma Hall along with Galileo loudspeaker management. 

The same combination of Shure wireless microphones, Biamp Nexia and DiGiCo digital mixing was delivered, this time with a DiGiCo SD11 console. Video and control systems also emulated the deployment in the Elma Hall.

While many of the artists and acts that perform at the Elma Arts Hotel bring their own sound teams, the system was designed so most shows can be run by the in-house team. Kadmon says: “Multipurpose venues sometimes lack the right people, equipment and facilities to allow them to work how they should. The Elma Arts hotel ensured they avoided these problems and we had to deliver plug-and-play systems.”

As word spreads about the facility most performances are sold out and feedback from visitors is overwhelmingly positive. Many of those involved in the arts and performance side of the hotel believe it has filled an artistic and cultural gap in the area with a unique facility that is visited by people from all over Israel. Some are drawn by an interest in the architecture and history of the complex but an ever widening programme of events is continuing to draw a range of guests.

Kadmon says: “This was a unique project. It was funded privately by people who were striving for excellence. That’s a good combination that accepted the need for high quality technologies.”


Biamp Nexia DSPs and Tesira platform
ClearCom intercom system
DiGiCo SD9 and SD11 mixing consoles
ListenIR assistive listening systems
Meyer Sound Ultra Series loudspeakers and stage monitors, LF Series subwoofers, Cinema surround sound system and Galileo loudspeaker management system
Shure QLX-D wireless microphone systems

Christie projectors 
Crestron Digital Media system
Panasonic PTZ cameras
Samsung LCDs
DaLite projection screens

Apple iPads
Crestron CP3 control processor, TSW 1050 touch panels
Middle Atlantic racks

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