Opened in September 2021 and situated in the largest district of the capital city of Warsaw, Poland’s new purpose-built Ursynów Cultural Centre “Alternatywy” (Alternatives) was commissioned to provide an iconic and versatile public space representing the very best in modern innovation.
The venue’s name, which references a popular 1980’s Polish television series, Alternatywy 4, was selected through a competition amongst residents and encapsulated the centre’s vision of offering a rich and varied cultural programme for the entire community. Crucial to achieving its goal and pivotal to the project’s success was the audio system design featuring breakthrough technology in the form of L-Acoustics L-ISA Immersive Hyperreal Sound—specified and installed by one of Poland’s top pro audio equipment suppliers, Audio Plus.
“The South-West Warsaw community had waited a long time for a decent cultural centre,” says Łukasz Kaźmierczak, System Design and Project Manager at Audio Plus. “It was a very personal project for me because I live next door. When we found out that this was also a crucial project for the city, we immediately knew the cutting-edge L-ISA technology would be a perfect fit. We introduced it, and it was exactly what the investor was looking for.”
The development cost 21.4 million Polish Zloty (4.5M Euro), and boasts 3,400 square metres spread over three storeys, comprising a gallery, music club, a complex of teaching rooms, and a multifunctional room suitable for hosting events and dance training. The jewel in the crown is the 350-capacity Szekspir (Shakespeare) theatre with state-of-the-art stage and dressing room facilities whose cutting-edge infrastructure belies its traditional theatre architectural roots
Provisions for the sound system were factored in during the building construction stage when the Audio Plus team began to survey and design the performance space. Research swiftly led to the most innovative sound system in the industry, L-Acoustics L-ISA Immersive Hyperreal Sound, which generates 360° surround sound using object-based mixing to manage the placement of signals around the hall, creating true immersion for the audience.
“The City of Warsaw and the Ursynów District Office wanted to create a unique facility with a perfectly equipped auditorium as its central and pivotal element,” explains Patryk Kuryło, sound manager at Ursynów Cultural Centre Alternatywy. “It would be the stage technology that would distinguish this facility from other auditoriums in the city, and this gave rise to the ambitious goal of creating a unique sound space that will be hard to equal with other halls, not only in Poland but around the world.”
For the audience, the difference between the L-ISA immersive technology and traditional loudspeaker systems is colossal, notes Robert Juzala, venue’s sound engineer. “Put simply, the viewer hears what they see,” he says. “L-Acoustics has brought about a breakthrough in stage sound reinforcement, which is entirely unique. The system provides a hyperreal surround sound experience. No matter where you sit, you can hear and locate the artist or instrument according to their actual place in the sound image and not, as before, from the loudspeaker closest to you. L-ISA eliminates the ‘sweet spot.’ It doesn’t matter whether you are at the far end of the audience or sitting in the centre; you have the same aural experience.”
The main system comprises five hangs of one A10 Focus topped with two A10 Wide,
with two hangs of two SB18msubs in a cardioid configuration on either side of the central A10 hang. Five 5XT are evenly spaced across the stage lip for front-fill. A total of 12 wall-mounted X8, four along each side wall and four across the rear wall, are used for surround, with a further two X8 ceiling-mounted for in-fill. Two X8, six X12, and three X15HiQ provide stage monitoring. System control is via an L-ISA Controller and L-ISA Processor, and a total of 13 LA4X amplified controllers powering the system.
The loudspeaker cabinets are all connected to the 96 x 64 multichannel L-ISA Processor and controlled by L-ISA Controller, a simple and intuitive integrated software suite that serves as the hub for all L‑ISA functionality. The software enables object-based mixing along with comprehensive control and programming capabilities via a touchscreen or laptop.
“The big difference with immersive mixing is that we don’t just mix in stereo to two clusters,” continues Juzala. “The speakers are all hooked up to the L-ISA Processor, and during the mixing process, each sound source is managed individually rather than blended. Using the L-ISA Controller, the system adjusts the parameters that orient an object in space, and we create the concert spatially. The heart of the system is not the FOH console, as is normally the case, but the L-ISA Processor, which contains the algorithms responsible for signal distribution.”
The supplementary L-ISA Studio software, requiring only a laptop and headphones, enables any visiting productions to prepare show files in advance. Additionally, QLAB was employed to knit all the production elements together, integrating the venue’s world of sound, multimedia, and lighting.
“The ability to automatically follow the action on stage was a milestone in the realisation of surround sound. Today, not only can the light follow the action, but thanks to L-ISA, also the sound.” says Kaźmierczak. “This installation was a huge challenge, especially as an early adopter. At the project’s inception, only a handful of installers had proposed such a system in the world, let alone Poland!
“With L-ISA, we have managed to bring a multidimensional sound experience from top audio experts, transforming Ursynów Cultural Centre into a truly universal place, where one day they can stage a drama, and the next, a musical, orchestra or pop concert. The new technology is both rider-friendly for any visiting productions and artists, and also perfectly suited for creating unique world-class productions of its own.”
“The entire Audio Plus team was impressive in educating the management team at Ursynow on the benefits of an immersive sound system for their venue,” concludes Florian Kunz, Regional Sales Manager at L-Acoustics. “Audio Plus ensured a perfect design and installation for the venue, and took the time to train the team on the new technology, and the benefit of their expertise will be enjoyed by the Warsaw community for years to come.”