Washington, DC | July, 2014 - Located just blocks from the White House, the World Bank opened for business at 1818 H street on June 25, 1948. Today, the Bank's address remains the same, but as the organization's focus has evolved, so has the footprint of its headquarters. The Bank's H Street headquarters is now a multi-building complex covering an entire city block.
The buildings are enclosed by a massive glass atrium more than 150 feet tall and 150 feet wide. The atrium has become a popular setting for World Bank events, including cultural activities, exhibits, presentations and a stage for dignitaries, including the Bank President, to make speeches.
Not surprisingly, the atrium's reflective surfaces do present some acoustical challenges, and as the space has hosted a growing number of business and theatrical events, it was time for the audio system to evolve to meet these needs. To address this challenge, World Bank officials called on Boulder, Colorado audio consultants K2 Audio.
"It's a pretty challenging acoustical space, with lots of standing waves and lots of echoes," said Rodrigo Ordóñez, principal at K2 Audio. "Their original system didn't deliver adequate performance for much of what they were doing in there now, and they wanted to move to a more versatile sound solution."
The challenges of a reflective, cavernous space were only the beginning. The system itself needed to be versatile enough to accommodate a variety of performance types – from bands, to dignitaries, to dance troupes. Add to that significant limitations on where the speakers themselves could be located.
"Infrastructure wise, they didn't want to do any kind of construction work," Ordóñez explains. "We were limited to re-using existing loudspeaker locations and existing infrastructure for loudspeaker cables and lighting." The coverage needs also extended to a number of smaller nooks and corners that were largely unserved by the previous system.
The system is comprised of a single Renkus-Heinz ICONYX IC32-R-II digitally steered line array covering the main area, with nine ICONYX IC16-R-II cabinets distributed throughout the covered shaded areas. "We time-aligned the IC16 boxes to the main IC32 in front," said Ordóñez. "There is no overlapping. Each speaker is covering a specific area. No matter where you are in the space, the orientation towards that front position is amazing. And the ICONYX loudspeakers are very clean — they project little to no sound out the back of it so there are no weird echoes throughout the space."
K2 designed the loudspeaker control system to match the versatility requirements. "There are seven total presets in different modes," said Ordóñez. "For smaller events, they can take the DSP and mute some of the speakers to direct sound towards one side of the atrium. The system remembers all the different settings and they have a touch panel that sits in the rack and they can change it from there."
Ordóñez reports that World Bank officials are very happy with the new ICONYX system. "They always had a lot of complaints with that space," he says. "It never really performed to their expectations. We have heard only positive things since installing the ICONYX. Everybody is happy with the system, from the guys who are operating it on a daily basis, to the highest level."