The Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, is an architectural icon in an oil-rich city, whose architect, London-based Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid, requested an invisible sound system. Lead technical contractor A Group, based in Turkey, was awarded the contract for audio, lighting and visual design and installation, with Suat Durkan heading a 20-strong project team. They specified Renkus-Heinz Iconyx digital beam steering, which offers high intelligibility.
With its wealth based on huge oil reserves, the largest city on the Caspian Sea, Baku's population of 2 million, a quarter of the country's inhabitants, includes a wealthy demographic that is interested in the arts. When it was proposed to build an arts complex as a tribute to the late former president and father of the country's President Ilham Aliyev, no holds were barred.
The Heydar Aliyev Center's main auditorium and conference hall sits beside other cultural spaces including a gallery and museum, all represented by folds in a single continuous surface. The design philosophy was also guided by Hadid's insistence that all technology in the main 980-seat auditorium must be invisible to the audience.
A Group addressed the issue of "invisibility" by recommending Renkus-Heinz digitally beam steerable IC Live arrays to focus tight beams of sound from hidden locations precisely into specific audience areas, with the highest possible level of audio fidelity for both speech and music.
A Group supplied the complete technical design and fit-out including a mechanical stage system and orchestra pit, with a specially designed balustrade, and acoustic towers in front of the loudspeakers. "We had originally planned to install the speakers directly onto the walls," Durkan says, "but the architect did not want to see any technical products. So we designed a system of wooden slots with acoustic cloth, providing 100-percent audio transmission."
The towers neatly conceal eight Renkus-Heinz IC Live ICL-FR digitally steerable column arrays, each equipped with multi-channel Class-D digital amplifiers with integral DSP engines controlling every array element with programmable precision, and equipped with RHAON, the Renkus-Heinz Audio Operations Network.
Each ICL-FR delivers 105dB SPL, with flat output response from 80 to 20k Hz. Extending the low frequency range are four BP15-2R RHAON-enabled 2x15-inch self-powered subwoofers and four CF1215R self-powered RHAON-enabled stage monitors.
Says Durkan: "This Center is of great cultural and architectural significance to the arts in Baku and we are very proud to have made a major contribution to the performance technologies that help make it so special. We provided high quality, high intelligibility sound from sources that cannot be seen by the audience—exactly as the architects and designers required."