d&b Soundscape at Archifest in Singapore.
Archifest is a two week series of events held by the Singapore Institute of Architects (SIA) aimed at people of all ages and walks of life. The 2018 themed ‘Design for Life’ program took place at several locations across the city state, including the festival’s focal point, a pavilion erected next to the iconic hotel and lifestyle destination, Marina Bay Sands.
Occupying an area of around 50 x 11 metres, the temporary structure served multiple needs; for SIA’s opening and closing events, educational seminars for SIA members, and as an exhibition of architectural design and building materials, open to the public throughout the day and into the night. “The pavilion is a manifestation of conceptual ideas, experimentation, it’s not created for physical works,” explained Clarence Lee, SIA’s marketing manager. “The entire exterior structure is very porous, from metal roofing and open steel bars all the way to the brick walls; it’s rustic, unfinished, a sort of raw architecture.
“This year the pavilion celebrates the ‘void decks’, part of our Singaporean culture, something that is close to our hearts,” continued Lee, in reference to the spaces found in between high rise residential buildings all across the city. The void decks are based on traditional ‘Kampong’ lifestyle and housing where residents share an open communal area.
For an enhanced experience, the organizers decided to immerse visitors in familiar void deck sounds. “Architecture is not only about the built environment, it comprises all senses, hearing being one of them,” stated Lee. “So, we required a sound system to make it a success.” Singaporean sound design firm Ctrl Fre@k was tasked with realizing the vision, appointing Yong Rong Zhao as project designer. “I went to void decks around the city, recording typical scenic sounds throughout the day,” recalled Rong Zhao, “starting with school bells in the morning all the way to night time. “It was then basically about dynamically placing these signals around the area to replicate what a void deck sounds like. Certain sounds, like from people passing by or street noises, involve movement which we wanted to emphasise realistically.”
The d&b Soundscape toolkit, with the DS100 Signal Engine and En-Scene software at its heart, was chosen to bring the void deck experience to life at the pavilion. “With all soundtracks in QLab and to be played back automatically, I went to the d&b office here in Singapore,” said Rong Zhao, “where, with the help from d&b staff, we were able to do all programming and simulating in Soundscape.”
“It was my first time working with Soundscape and the DS100 processor,” continued Rong Zhao. “It is really straightforward; QLab is well integrated into the Soundscape workflow and the R1 Remote control system, so there is no need for other applications.” Together with Kenny Chng, Technical Sales for d&b, the entire system design was completed. “Knowing and configuring the positions of the speakers, the DS100 then does all the calculations. In Soundscape it’s really easy to achieve realistic movement of sounds,” confirmed Rong Zhao. “I like the integration and the workflow, and with the support and help from d&b it has been a great work experience.”
Onsite at the pavilion, Singaporean production company MOV Pte Ltd was responsible for the installation with the goal of keeping loudspeakers and related infrastructure out of sight as much as possible. Two rows of four d&b E6 compact coaxial loudspeakers were each mounted with a certain distance in between, just below the roof and pointing inside the pavilion. “There were constraints as to where we could hang speakers,” added Rong Zhao. “Initially, we were to have an additional set of speakers above the space but, due to visual concerns, the organizers preferred to leave them out.”
With the exception of seminar events held inside the pavilion, the Soundscape system kept playing back environmental sounds, including rain and thunder, for the duration of the festival. “Indeed, d&b has brought us an immersive experience,” said Lee. “It feels like you are in a void deck space. Sometimes I myself was fooled into believing the sounds are real and not played back.”
During presentations inside the pavilion, a pair of d&b 24C column loudspeakers with E12X-SUB flanking a projection screen were utilized to disperse mostly speech across the 5 x 12 metre seminar space. An additional pair of d&b 8S coaxial loudspeakers provided ambient background music at a far end of the pavilion, where sponsors were engaging with the public. Staff had access to the d&b R1 Remote control software to simply switch between sources and outputs, depending on purpose and schedule, with E12-SUBs aiding low frequencies during both seminars and Soundscape performances.
“In past years we have used more rudimentary sound systems at Archifest,” recalled Lee. “This is the first time that we have something as sophisticated, and d&b played a very critical part. They have provided us with a lot of technology and technical support, for example placement of speakers in this experimental pavilion structure, which requires careful considerations and treatment. It is the reason why we work with d&b,” he concluded, “we have a very good relationship, and we hope it will continue into the future.”