Case Study

Harnessing performance space

Expanding potential at UAL, Wimbledon

 

The performing arts is an industry full of optimism and creativity, and yet it regularly struggles in terms of facility requirements. Theatre groups and production companies mostly rely on the bare minimum, utilising the space they have as much as possible. This can be both liberating and yet limiting as performance space can be used at free will, but can it be utilised to its full potential?

Previously built for a Print and Time-Based Media course, the UAL studio spaces are spread across two floors across the Wimbledon campus. The downstairs space, being more enclosed, can split itself into two rooms for workshops and independent rehearsals. Alternatively, the upstairs room provides an ideal performance hub, with sky light installations to let the room bring in natural light and air, as well as wooden panels on the ceiling for acoustical balance and a church-like aesthetic.

The studios have been recognised for their architectural intelligence and have been awarded the green standard for their sustainable design which includes north-south orientation, a high-performance envelope, rainwater harvesting, photo-voltaic solar collection and finally, controlled natural ventilation. The windows, blinds, and lights across the two floors are all automated, meaning the rooms can allow as much light and air as they need.

While this does seem ideal for doing pretty much anything to do with performance, this diversity requires a PA system to provide interconnectivity and flexibility, which, thanks to Flipside Soundsystem, has now been installed.

Tailoring the solution

 

“It’s definitely not the easiest space to work with,” comments Nigel little, Lighting and Sound Technician at Wimbledon College of Arts. “But with all of the automated elements, the rooms practically breathe on their own, so they naturally lend themselves to performance. We just needed to add lighting, patching points and a sound install that could adapt between the upstairs and downstairs levels and Flipside knew exactly how to make that happen.”

A total of x6 Yamaha DZR10 Series Speakers have been installed across the spaces with a Denon DN-30X 6-Channel Mixer to connect all external devices and audio equipment between them. “The team needed an infrastructure that could be used to do anything with any equipment they involved,” recalls James Cooper, Managing Director at Flipside.

“Their contractor did the initial specification designs which we then interpreted to our spec, which involved installing a PA system split across two floors of studio space, with main patch panels feeding out to lighting bar locations using fibre, DMX and Socapex cable extensions – populated entirely with Neutrik connectors,” he adds. “All in all, it was a pretty technical project to work on.”

“James went above and beyond on this project,” Little adds. “All the patching options for sound, video and fibreoptic now all tie lines in between and to have that interconnectivity is so useful for such two separate and diverse spaces – we can now patch sound in between the spaces as and when we need.”

The connectivity, via the Denon Channel Mixer, required a little bit of training which the UAL technician team soon picked up from Flipside. “It’s very simple and easy to control,” says Little. “This is extra beneficial for us because the students have learnt how to use it, meaning they can continue with their projects or rehearsals without any technical supervision.”

Innovating for the future

 

Currently undergoing a major site re-development, the Wimbledon college is set to be a world-class performance centre for summer 2022. The first-floor studio has already been used as a backdrop for a student project based on the use of light in movement, material, and character development, captured in photography and film and is ready to be used more frequently for the new term ahead.

The work from Flipside has now enabled the campus to create an integrated performance environment, fostering collaboration between design, acting, technical arts and performance courses and ultimately improving the student experience by creating a positive and versatile presence within the department.

“When it comes to the politics of innovation, it’s always the areas that have less attention and less resources that have to work harder to innovate,” concludes Annette Ollerearnshaw, Wimbledon’s Production and Digital Lab Manager. “What I found so impressive about James from Flipside is that he instinctively wanted to innovate – even when certain elements of this install project were restrictive, he saw a way of making it work within the budget he was given and knew it would be beneficial for us. I really admired his commitment and fearlessness to this project.”

Kit List

  • X3 Denon DN-306X
  • X6 Yamaha DZR10
  • 10″ equivalent to EM Acoustics ESP8
  • X6 UBDZR10H
  • U-bracket horizontal for DZR10(D), CZR10 (pc)