The Oostende Post Office, the only public building designed by famed Ghent architect Gaston Eysselinck, has been recognized as one of the finest architectural creations of Belgium’s postwar period. In 1981 the modernist style building was granted status as a protected monument. When the Post Office moved out in 1999, B-Architects, under the direction of Dirk Engelen, undertook the massive challenge of creating multiple modern theaters and performance spaces inside, while respecting the venue’s design ethos. The result is De Grote Post, a multi-purpose performing arts center unlike any other.
The main hall seats 431, and is designed for music, dance or traditional theatre performances. Acoustical designer Paul Mees of Daidalos Peutz worked with B-Architects to create the venue’s distinctive triangular acoustic panels, accented by neon tubes. The result is an eye-catching décor from any seat.
Designed by Marc Lambert of Gent-based theatre design group TTAS, the audio systems for De Grote Post boast the first European installation of the new VARIA modular point source line array from Renkus-Heinz. Four VARIA VA101 cabinets are hung per side, each array consisting of two VA101-7 7.5-degree cabinets, one VA101-15 15-degree box, and one VA101-22 22.5-degree box. A center cluster of two 22.5-degree cabinets augments coverage, along with a third cabinet ground stacked atop two VA15S subwoofers. Four TRX61 loudspeakers provide front fill for the first few rows.
As Steven Kemland, Sales and Project Manager of Foundation for Audiovisual Commerce and Engineering (FACE) explains, VARIA was ideal for the venue’s challenging spaces. “Most of the systems we looked into would have required many more cabinets to provide even coverage across the entire seating area,” he says. “The VARIA’s variable coverage patterns enabled us to configure a system with fewer boxes than a traditional line array. It’s very compact and yet it sounds like a much larger system.” Sam Serruys, technical director of De Grote Post adds, “The results we have achieved with a system using 10 inch drivers is truly remarkable.”
The smaller theatre is a more compact room, with the floor on hydraulic lifts, enabling it to be split into four separate areas, enabling artists to configure the venue to suit a wide range of performances and creations. The room is outfitted with a ground stacked system with left and right stacks of two VA15S subs, topped by 22.5 degree and 7 degree cabinets. In addition, TTAS also specified mobile setups that could be mixed and matched to meet a wide range of program needs, from the smaller impromptu performance spaces to the larger outdoor courtyard. Here, FACE’s recommendation of the Renkus-Heinz CF-101 point source line array system fit the bill perfectly. FACE also provided Avid SC48 digital consoles for the stages, as well as Behringer X32 mixers for the mobile setups. Microphones are a traditional mix of Shure, Audio Technica and Sennheiser, with additional system components by Radial, Omnicase, DPA, XTA, Powersoft, and ASL Intercom.
Kemland also gives the nod to FACE project engineers Stijn Vermeiren and Jeroen Willems, who completed the entire project from order to sound check, in less than four weeks’ time. De Grote Post director Stefan Tanghe says: “Oostende has long needed a performance space for smaller performances and exhibitions, as well as providing gallery space. Along with the large Het Kursaal theatre nearby, our city can now offer national and international artists the state of the art facilities they expect to find.”