FEATURE - Flexibility as standard
Whilst delivering the highest possible levels of technology to its guests, Raffles Istanbul also demanded an unparalleled level of flexibility from its installed A/V solutions as James Ling discovers
Adding a final glamourous touch to Istanbul’s Zorlu Center, the newly-opened Raffles Hotel has been designed to deliver the same high standards as the five star chain’s other properties across the globe. While the ornate fixtures and fittings around the hotel provide the level of luxury its clientele expect, it is the A/V system that gives the hotel the flexibility it needs to deliver on its promises.
‘Raffles requirements are much tougher than all other five star hotels in Turkey,’ states Reşat Dalay, director of engineering at Raffles Istanbul. ‘Raffles was established 127 years ago and they have worked on the standards a lot. I’ve worked with five star hotel chains before but at Raffles, the quality is at a very advanced point.’
This has been a key factor for Raffles as it built its Istanbul venue. The chain doesn’t have a large number of branches, so when it does open a new property every part of it has to be worthy of the name.
‘Everything here has used very advanced technology,’ explains Mr Dalay. ‘Our guest rooms are smart, so you can operate the TV from your iPad, you can use your telephone to operate the sound system or your curtains, the room systems are very well connected. It is the same with the back of house systems too. All of our systems like the building management or the fire detection are the most advanced available and many of them are being used for the first time in Turkey.’
As with many of the other projects at the Zorlu Center, the job of meeting the hotel’s technical demands fell to the Istanbul office of Turkish distributor and systems integrator, Atempo. ‘From the start of the project we realised the seriousness of the investment and the seriousness of the company was like no other,’ recalls Atempo’s Volkan Konuralp. ‘Throughout our 30 years we have done a number of very big chain hotels, but this one and the professionals who came from Raffles itself were just extremely experienced and very technical. Even the architects were informed about the A/V technical equipment. It was a big surprise for us, but a nice surprise. When you can talk the same language with people, particularly the architects, it can make your life much easier. In that regard it was one of our easiest projects.’
One of the factors that became clear from early on in the project was that the hotel didn’t want to be in a situation where it could not meet its guests’ needs. As such, the equipment it has selected is designed to be extremely flexible and highly controllable.
‘Everything in the hotel is connected to the automation system, you can operate every single bulb from the building management system,’ explains Mr Dalay. ‘In our restaurant for example there are 67 tables. If one of those tables doesn’t want the light on above them we can turn it off from the system while leaving the light to the neighbouring tables on. That was the level of detail we were working to.’
This philosophy is evident in every section of the hotel, but it is with the ballroom where it becomes most apparent. As you would expect, the room can be divided into different spaces, but the element of flexibility goes much beyond this. It has been designed so that the technical fit out of the room does not inhibit the creativity of any potential clients.
To meet this tough brief, Atempo installed a unique system of connection points throughout the roof of the ballroom. ‘We used a retractable ceiling connection points from Litelab. There are about 90 pieces all in the ceiling,’ recalls Mr Konuralp. ‘The benefit of this system is we have these retractable termination points embedded into the ceiling which can come down about a 1.5m with the touch of a button. When they are down, you can use them to connect a TV screen, a speaker or a light. You can put two bars in between two retraction points and make a truss. This gives the ballroom the possibility to be configured in an infinite number of ways.’
While these points provide the biggest advantage for the hotel, they were also the source of Atempo’s largest challenge. Importantly, this wasn’t an issue with the technology, more the actual process of installing them. ‘We had to install them into this very expensive glass structure that formed part of the ceiling. Each individual piece of glass was hand blown by one person. Those retractable terminal points had to be inserted into the ceiling between those glass structures but we were very precise and we didn’t break anything,’ says Mr Konuralp.
‘These sophisticated termination points were necessary because of the creativity and the flexibility that the technical team from Raffles wanted in here,’ he continues. ‘I can say that this is the most flexible ballroom that has been made in Turkey in terms of the different types of A/V equipment that you can place in the room.’
While the termination points provide the creativity to configure the room however the user wants, they are supported by a range of other systems. Audio in the ballroom can be delivered by either the Electro-Voice ceiling speakers matrixed by the manufacturer’s NetMax system and mixed on a Midas console or via a portable EV system which can be configured depending on user requirements. A/V control is courtesy of a number of Crestron touchscreen panels which give direct access to the automation system. While if extra equipment is required, there are a number of hidden wall panels with Neutrik and Link connectors dotted around the ballroom.
Completing the setup is a sophisticated broadcast solution featuring equipment from Sony and Roland which enables clients to record events and feeds the large Vestel videowall via Extron scalers and splitters. ‘This was the first time we’ve had to install a high-level, broadcast quality video recording system in a ballroom in Turkey,’ says Mr Konuralp. ‘This was a very sophisticated system that features a number of cameras which can cut into each other and make an actual production. In that regard, it wasn’t just a regular video recording, it was like a small studio. They wanted to invest in that in-house so they could provide a service to their customers, to have videos montaged and ready after the event.’
While the ballroom understandably grabs the attention, the same high level of control and flexibility can be seen right throughout the hotel. ‘The restaurants, the bars and the open pool area feature very high-quality components,’ says Mr Konuralp. ‘For the spa, our automation is Crestron. For the restaurant and poolside areas the fixed installation speaker system is a combination of Electro-Voice and Dynacord. The concept was very luxurious and very high quality. Even the small cafés that have small reading areas feature a certain sound level that they wanted from us.’
The hotel is filled with small examples like this of using the latest technology to meet any potential needs. ‘In the Spa we implemented a very sophisticated Crestron system that features a number of touchscreen panels on the walls, but also the IP-65 waterproof wireless panels as well,’ cites Mr Konuralp. ‘They can walk in and test the sauna with it if they want.’
Staying with the A/V control side, Mr Dalay points to a further example of where the hotel is aiming to meet any potential need. ‘The best thing is that every single meeting room has its own tablet to operate the whole system,’ he explains. ‘This is the best that I’ve seen in Istanbul. It is all PIN controlled, so if there is a confidential meeting that they don’t want our staff involved with, we can give them a quick demonstration and they can control the room systems themselves. It is very easy to operate and very user-friendly.’
One of the key things about this project is that both the hotel and the installer judge the installation’s success on the reaction of their respective clients. ‘We are extremely happy with the end result. We are happy because our customer is happy with it,’ states Mr Konuralp. ‘This is the first time we have worked with the Raffles people. We really paid a lot of attention to make sure that we understood them and we implemented the solution that they wanted, no matter what obstacle we faced on the construction. It is the philosophy of Atempo to make sure that our customers are happy because how happy they are determines how happy we can be.’
‘I am very happy with the A/V side of the hotel,’ adds Mr Dalay. ‘Atempo did a very good job. Their ability, approach and service have all been very good. The products they supplied to us are very good quality and the installation work they did was excellent. Our guests have been very happy too. We haven’t had any complaints so far.’
With the high standards expected by Raffles’ guests, this is possibly the biggest endorsement the hotel’s A/V infrastructure could receive.