Rabbiting On: ArtHouse Hotel
It’s down the rabbit hole at ArtHouse Hotel with a d&b audiotechnik system coming to the Mad Hatter’s party.
Text:/ Graeme Hague
Everyone familiar with the CBD in Sydney will have seen the rich history and grand old buildings that line every street. Most of these institutions can lay claim to a chequered past over the centuries and were host to a wide variety of businesses and organisations, often a far cry from the original intent.
Not so with the ArtHouse Hotel – which okay, now it’s a hotel – but for over 150 years it was a place of learning and education. It started out in the late 1830s as the Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts (SMSA) which might bring prompt visions of souped-up Volkswagen Beetles painted by Salvador Dali, but no, a ‘mechanic’ in the nineteenth century referred to any working man, or member of the working class, and the School offered the ‘common man’ lectures and lessons on such diverse topics as how to buy a good horse, the principles behind vulgarity in language (perhaps after you’ve bought a bad horse), and even a crash course in surgery over 20 simple lessons.
In the 1970s it was briefly owned by Alan Bond, but we all know how high his cheques bounced, and the building subsequently became available for retail outlets and offices until finally, in 2001, the SMSA found its true calling as a hotel offering top class food and beverages, entertainment, plus spaces for meetings, small conventions and exhibitions.
No surprise, it’s a heritage listed site and the ArtHouse Hotel management has embraced the grandeur of the SMSA’s original structure, cleverly integrating the high vaulted ceilings and panelled walls with modern lighting and décor to highlight the best of both. Of course, having state of the art AV equipment is an important part of the venue’s appeal and versatility, especially in the ground floor Rabbit Bar.
TEA PARTY TUNES
George Kostopoulos and Benjamin Gore, Directors of Sydney-based Beyond Network Solutions, focus on two main objectives when it comes to AV design and integration. The system must be realistic for the venue’s requirements – neither under-resourced or over the top for the room – and must also be ‘fit for purpose.’
Fit for purpose – that’s a little tricky for the Rabbit Bar, because like Lewis Carrol’s Wonderland and the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party on which the bar is themed, things can change quickly, and the bar morphs through different vibes across the 24-hour cycle. By day, it’s a casual meeting place for drinks, snacks and lunch, then in the evening it becomes an after-hours bar providing entertainment as well. Late night on the weekends the Rabbit Bar is a true club that’s a popular part of Sydney’s night life.
Providing a music PA system that adapted easily to all these demands was the challenge. Ben McBeath, Director of the ArtHouse Hotel, envisaged a “warm” sound that filled the venue entirely at any sound pressure level, whether that was BGM at lunch time or a DJ smashing out the latest hits at 2:00am in the morning. Plus the equipment had to be discreet, blending in with the décor as much as possible – a floor-to-ceiling stack of 45/60 horns and W-Bins wasn’t an option.
With the Rabbit Bar being essentially one long, large area, splitting the area into separate zones didn’t make much sense. Instead, George and his team at Beyond Network Solutions put their heads together with Aaron Lee from NAS Solutions and opted to deploy a varying range of d&b loudspeakers along the room, achieving the same thing and creating that full, warm sound throughout the bar that Ben McBeath expected. Installed on either side of a small stage that’s brought out when needed is a d&b 24S full-range loudspeaker complemented by a single d&b 21S subwoofer placed underneath the seating below. Then down one side of the venue, opposite the bar, are four d&b 8S loudspeakers with a fifth above the venue’s entrance. The 8S loudspeakers are a neat solution because they fill the designated area perfectly and yet don’t blow away the bar staff trying to hear the patrons’ orders.
The system design also covers the small VIP areas which are catered for with two d&b 5S loudspeakers. Everything is powered by a d&b 30D and a d&b 10D amplifier, with the DSP allowing precise time delays to keep the sound tight and aligned.
A further component of the project was for Beyond Network Solutions to install a custom, networked control system that distributes the Rabbit Bar entertainment across the whole building – the second floor is the Artasian Restaurant specialising in Asian cuisine, while the top floor Attic Bar is an intimate space available for private functions and occasionally open to the public as a cocktail bar. With the new network, anything can be routed anywhere throughout the building with total control, and is easily reconfigured at a moment’s notice.
We got the one-size-fits-all solution, with the added bells and whistles.
ONE SIZE FITS ALL
George Kostopoulos and Benjamin Gore at Beyond Network Solutions have enjoyed a long relationship with Aaron Lee and NAS Solutions. For George and Benjamin, NAS is always ready to help and collaborate on any project large or small. They worked together to design a fit for purpose solution to meet the expectations of the client. George says, “You only have to give Aaron a quick call and he’ll be around, offering ideas and even bringing gear to demonstrate to us before we present a solution to our client. He’s like an extra member of the Beyond Network Solutions team.”
Ben McBeath at the ArtHouse Hotel couldn’t be happier. “George and Benjamin presented the ArtHouse with d&b as our best solution to resolving my rather demanding set of requirements. The ArtHouse Hotel is a unique venue and demanded a unique, broad and high-quality solution and the outcomes are exceptional. We got the one-size-fits-all solution, with the added bells and whistles. It’s a system that cuddles you and picks you up when needed. We love it.”
If those wise scholars from the 1830s could look forward to today and the 21st century, surely they’d be delighted to see the Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts continues to be a thriving establishment and a prominent landmark in the Sydney CBD. Even better, if you go into the Rabbit Bar and enjoy a cold beer, you can probably still find out how to buy a good horse.