St Gabriel’s is a Catholic School with a growing attendance thanks to the booming Austin, Texas economy. As they faced space limitations across the board, the school set out to build a new building that would extend an existing building and provide them with much more classroom space, a large lecture hall, a library, teacher meeting space, a remodeled gym and a new Chapel. After a 14-month construction cycle, the new building was opened in May of 2016.
Cedar Park, Texas-based Ridge AV (www.ridgeav.com) was contacted by the school to come in and solve many challenges they had for integrating audio and video into a school environment. The expectations were high and rather complex, but the systems had to be extremely user friendly.
“Probably one the most challenging projects we have ever taken on was their Learning Stairs Lecture Hall and Chapel,” says Ridge President Mark Tarbet. “These were very ornate spaces where the AV system simply could not be visible or stand out. The speakers in both spaces could not be flown and could not be slightly. All we had to mount speakers on to were custom, hand painted stained-glass windows. To make it extra challenging and risky, both stained-glass walls were 100% custom built onsite by Italian craftsmen flown in for this project. No errors or replacements!”
The Learning Stairs is a lecture hall made up of large wood-stained stairs. Up to 175 students can be seated in this space. It is also used for large meetings. The Chapel is a small Chapel that seats 50 people and is used by the School for Mass.
To solve this challenge of sound in these two spaces, Ridge proposed to use RCF’s VSA Series speakers which are vertical steerable line arrays that are just 5” wide and can be programmed to direct the sound specifically to the listeners, avoiding unwanted reflections and reverberation that the glass and hard surfaces that cause sound systems to lose intelligibility.
As they looked at the VSA as a possible solution, Tarbet thought, “If perhaps we could possibly get them painted to somehow match the color of the window mullions and figure out how to re-enforce the mounting brackets on the mullions, we could potentially have a winner by mounting the speakers to the window mullions to hide them, and then use the steering capabilities of the VSA to direct sound coverage as needed.” After conceptual 3D drawings were presented, the School agreed to the solutions.
Ridge AV worked with RCF to try and get a good color match for an aluminum texture. After carefully picking colors and lots of sign-offs, the speakers were painted, and custom mounts were fabricated by Ridge AV. The end result exceeded all expectations. After installation, Ridge AV invited some of the school staff who were not involved in the specification to come in the spaces where the project owners and general contractor were waiting. The staff was asked to “find the speakers,” and no one could initially! It was exactly what the general contractor and owners were hoping for. The sound quality was great thanks to the configurable steering capability of the speakers. ‘We were able to mount the speakers rather high up (less noticeable) and span elevated stair seating to get sound cleanly where it needed to be,” noted Tarbet.