Founded in Basel, Switzerland, in 1896 by visionary Swiss entrepreneur Fritz Hoffmann, Roche was one of the world’s first pharmaceutical manufacturers. In the early 1960s, Roche entered the drug market with the breakthrough discovery of the benzodiazepines. One extremely successful drug launched at that time, Valium, is still among the most important drugs used in psychiatry. Today Roche is the global market leader in diagnostics and, as a leading supplier of prescription medicines in selected therapeutic areas such as oncology, virology and transplantation, one of the top ten pharmaceutical manufacturers worldwide.
The Basel site, being Roche’s world headquarters, offers meeting and conference facilities for scientific and business events. A key element is the Master Auditorium, a 300 seat upscale auditorium which now offers full 5.1 cinema style surround sound replay, full broadcast quality video coverage, full video conferencing capabilities and countless other amenities.
The auditorium, originally built and equipped in the early 1970s, was scheduled for a complete technical and architectural overhaul, encompassing the Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system, the lighting system and most importantly the technical audio, video and IT equipment. The architectural update (responsible Architects: Dagmar Strasser, Werner Neumann and Joerg Omlin, Burckhardt & Partner, Basel, Switzerland) mainly consists of a renovation of a number of items in the room (e.g. furniture and concrete art at side walls) and the redesign of the entire ceiling, including lighting system and HVAC. The ceiling has been recreated as a stretched fiber membrane held by a steel grid structure. This approach offers an exciting aesthetical result and a number of technical advantages over traditional lid ceilings. Foremost it is herewith possible to service and (re)install technical components at the ceiling by simply lowering the steel grid with the membrane (motorized control) and then accessing the raw ceiling with all ducts, cable runways and other technical building blocks. The lighting system is embedded in the membrane and therefore rises and lowers with it – this obviously allows for the easiest lamp exchanges in the history of auditoria :).
As mentioned above, the separate membrane ceiling offers not only breathtaking aesthetics, but also a rather interesting acoustical approach. Due to the acoustical transparency of the membrane, all of the acoustical surfaces can be visually hidden behind it. It is practically impossible to see through the membrane, even more so because the membrane is white and the raw ceiling and installed technical equipment is painted black. So, this offers the unique capability to split the usually unified aesthetical and acoustical appearance of the ceiling – thus, what the eye can see is not necessarily what the sound waves can „see“. In this particular case, the underlying acoustical ceiling consists of a number of specifically perforated gypsum panels that would be rather unpleasant to the eye. However, now they are made invisible by the membrane ceiling and the raw ceiling can look as ugly as it is required by the acoustician :). WSDG has measured the acoustical key parameters of the space before the reconstruction had started, which resulted in an average RT60 Reverberation Time of 0.6 sec at 1kHz, Speech Intelligibility RASTI of 0.75 (!) and a quiteness Level of NC 30. These very good results had to be carried through the renovation to make sure that no deterioration to the sound will occur when the auditorium opens for the public again. Acoustical simulation and calculation techniques have been used throughout the project.
The Roche Auditorium technology is very sophisticated and has been developed and implemented in close collaboration with independent consultant and installer RoNexus Services AG(responsible project engineers: Robin Stock and Oliver Stoll) which historically has been the offspring of the Roche A/V department. The technological update was undertaken as a groundup reconstruction of a full audio, video and IT system, including a dedicated auditorium control room.
The audio system is centered around a 5.1 surround sound capable Yamaha DM-2000 digital mixing console, chosen for immediate familiarity to the frequently rotating event-specific technical crews due to its widespread implementations. All audio signals are routed through a fool-proof analog patchbay for easy rerouting- and further signal flow modifications. On the input side, a comfortable number of wired and wireless handheld microphones by Sennheiser is available for attendees participation and panel-style discussions. Additionally, a ceiling-mounted boundary-microphone array by Shure is available for recording and broadcasting purposes which turns out to be suitable for live room amplification as well. The outputs of the digital mixing desk are routed to (A) the control room monitors (being a 5.1 Dynaudio Air setup ) and (B) to the auditorium, through a BSS Soundweb DSP processor for equalization, dynamics control, signal distribution and other control purposes. The main left/right ribbon-based loudspeaker systems have been fully integrated in the front wall construction and are barely visible while maintaining a considerable sound pressure level at a very low distortion rate. The positioning of the center channel could not be properly implemented and has therefore been replaced by a phantom center channel, created by equal mixing of the center channel content to the main left/right channels. Subwoofer loudspeakers by Audio Performance are installed in the ceiling soffit and are also invisible. The surround loudspeakers by SLS are equipped with a ribbon tweeter for optimum compatibility with the main left/right system. The audio system has been calibrated for high-end music, speech and DVD reproduction.
The video system is laid out for full broadcast capability and is used as such for major events for external and internal CCTV broadcasting channels, archiving, Event-DVD productions, documentation, webcasting, video conferencing and other purposes. A number of remote controlled motorized cameras capture the entire auditorium from different viewing angles, including close-ups and rear-views for filming not only the presenter but also attend- control room Besides the above mentioned IT area, the audio and video operators each have a dedicated work area in close proximity to the auditorium and direct visual access thereto. Carefully planned acoustics and ergonomics make this room a comfortable work environment despite the large amount of technical equipment present in this facility hub. Interconnectivity with other Roche sites as well as to the outside world (phone, video, OB van, IT lines etc.) is provided here as well. ee’s participation. Complex video mixing and effects capabilities make following the event a pleasurable experience, even if viewed thousands of miles away over an ISDN connection or on a DVD. In-room projection is handled by two (plus one spare) parallel high-output LCD-projectors installed in a rear-projection setup in the stage area.
Today’s auditorium and corporate event facilities are highly dependant on flawless IT equipment and services, be it for the availability of up-to-the-minute corporate financial figures or for a preprogrammed presentation. This all needs to work perfectly in sync with other media such as video cassette or corporate DVD replay. At the same time, due to the sensitivity of some of the data, very high security standards need to be enforced. These needs have been addressed by including a dedicated IT operator area in the main auditorium control room.
Besides the above mentioned IT area, the audio and video operators each have a dedicated work area in close proximity to the auditorium and direct visual access thereto. Carefully planned acoustics and ergonomics make this room a comfortable work environment despite the large amount of technical equipment present in this facility hub. Interconnectivity with other Roche sites as well as to the outside world (phone, video, OB van, IT lines etc.) is provided here as well.