Billed as the world’s first “super boutique” hotel, The Londoner on London’s Leicester Square is a study in elegant understatement. Although 16 stories tall, six of those floors are located underneath the property, so the hotel blends seamlessly into the area’s historic low-rise facades.
The Londoner’s contemporary design interior, created by international design firm Yabu Pushelberg, is similarly stunning yet restrained. Although it is a 350-room/suite hotel with world-class convention/meeting facilities, it has been crafted to provide the intimacy of a small boutique hotel. It is within this unique setting that Visual Systems Sales, part of the Myriad Audio Visual Group, was tasked with discreetly integrating an impressive suite of cutting-edge AV equipment.
Inconspicuous Yet Accessible
Edwardian Hotels had two goals for The Londoner’s AV system: It had to be accessible and usable everywhere, without making its presence obvious to guests. “They wanted the ability to route signals across the whole hotel and the main area on the ground floor,” explained Ray Sappal, a director with Visual Systems and The Londoner’s AV project manager. “They didn't want it to be the key focal point of the building, because the building itself is all built around art. The main criteria was that the AV had to be inconspicuous."
To achieve these dual goals, Visual Systems unobtrusively installed a hotel-wide Samsung MagicInfo digital signage system. They also deployed a similarly all-encompassing music system running on Dante audio networking to cover all public areas, including The Londoner’s restaurants and bars.
The hotel’s nine meeting rooms were each equipped with a 98-inch Samsung 4K commercial display, along with a Symetrix Dante Bluetooth and Logitech Rally videoconferencing system. Sappal said the meeting rooms systems are “self-contained using UNICOL VertiSlide brackets with AMX touchpanel control, and BYOD systems including Barco ClickShare and Apple TV in each.
For sound delivery, more than 300 Bose professional speakers were color-matched to The Londoner’s various ceiling finishes. The install incorporated most of Bose’s entire current range of speaker models, Sappal said, including Bose’s ShowMatch arrays, which were “installed within the ballroom on hoists so they can be raised above the ceiling when not in use.” Bose RMU loudspeakers incorporated into the ceiling structure are used as delays or main sound when the arrays are not being used.”
Star of the Show
Although The Londoner’s AV system shines throughout the property, the undeniable star is The Ballroom on basement level 2 (B2). Capable of serving 700 seated or 1,000 standing guests, it features a “state-of-the-art AV and production lighting system,” Sappal said. “Not many hotels I've seen in my 30 years in the industry have this amount of AV equipment.”
Equipped with its own master control room, The Ballroom has multiple facility panels located around the room’s perimeter. The panels can handle a variety of sources and include LEMO connectors, which can be patched to the hotel’s loading bay for outside broadcast. They also include ports for lighting, intercom, audio, video, SDI, networking, as well as power sockets for 16, 32, and 63 amp 3-phase connections.
“A client can hire (rooms) on B1 to B3 and spread their event over three floors, with interconnections between each floor,” Sappal explained. “You can have video and audio playing from The Ballroom into all these areas.” Each meeting room also has an interface, so the AV manager can route events from The Ballroom to any meeting room using a password-protected access page on any touchpanel or iPad control panel.
There are four tab-tensioned retractable display screens within The Ballroom, illuminated by four 16,000-lumen Christie laser projectors. Video signals are carried via an Extron XTP video matrix. “We also installed six Panasonic HD-SDI pan/tilt cameras with controllers around the ballroom, on custom-made swing-out brackets, for streaming events externally or to other areas of the hotel using AMX SVSI video-over-IP interfaces,” Sappal added. “The custom brackets enable the cameras to be quickly hidden behind the decorative chain mesh when not required, without having to physically remove them.”
The Ballroom’s lighting was selected and installed in concert with Visual Systems’ sister company Creative Staging to ensure that the venue was truly “event friendly,” according to Sappal. “Most ballrooms we have seen over the years very rarely have in-house production lighting,” he noted. “We have integrated house light control with the production lighting control to give the lighting engineer complete control over the whole room via the lighting desk. Alternatively, the whole lighting system can also be controlled via the AMX touchpanels and Lutron panels for smaller events without a dedicated lighting engineer.”
Visual Systems and Creative Staging installed eight motorized 12m trusses on load cells, outfitted with 30 moving wash and 20 moving profile light fixtures from Martin Lighting. The system is controlled via a pair of Avolites Quartz consoles and an Avolites Titan Net Processor in the control room.
Sound is controlled via a Bose ControlSpace EX DSP and amplifiers, while Powersoft amplifiers are used for the Bose ShowMatch Arrays. The team also installed a Sennheiser MobileConnect assistive listening system along with a Sennheiser infrared system. “For voice, we installed 14 channels of Sennheiser D6000 series radio microphones with four antennas discreetly installed in the ceiling of The Ballroom, all mixed from a pair of Yamaha QL digital mixing desks,” said Sappal. “For large events, we have installed a Clear-Com FreeSpeakII wired and wireless talkback system.”
While The Londoner’s AV installation was hindered by COVID-19, the project didn't stop because the U.K. was in lockdown. Sappal said Visual Systems kept working with a limited crew on site to meet its deadline.
Today, the virus remains a problem for The Londoner’s various events—but Visual Systems planned for the likelihood of delivering content to off-site participants. With the Panasonic PTZ cameras, all AV-equipped areas of the hotel can support virtual or hybrid events, if required. Plus, two portable video streaming systems can be deployed as needed around the hotel. Contained in flight cases, one system has a Blackmagic Design 4K video switcher and streaming solution, while the other features an Analog Way presentation video mixer for more graphic-intensive presentations.
Despite the personnel and supply chain issues caused by COVID-19, Visual Systems succeeded in completing The Londoner’s extensive AV system as planned—and wowing its guests with the system’s subtle yet awesome capabilities once in service. According to Sappal, The Londoner’s clients have told the hotel staff how impressed they are by the AV technology and how well it blends into the hotel’s decorating scheme.
“The client has themselves expressed that the AV design complemented the interior design,” Sappal added. “Overall, the feedback has been very, very positive.”