Situated in the picturesque New Zealand town of Queenstown and near to its famous outdoor sporting and tourist locations, the newly built Wakatipu High School has breathtaking views of the Remarkables mountain range and Southern Alps.
Wakatipu High is one of several Kiwi schools that are embracing OECD Innovative Learning Environment principles, with flexible learning spaces and open plan learning environments, all of which encourage collaborative educational methods. The way teachers and learners engage with each other has changed significantly, which has led to changes in the way schools are designed. As a result, many new school building projects are designed with this method in mind, while older schools are being renovated to accomplish the same philosophy.
Built in a public-private partnership, the relocated state-of-the-art school was built to designing quality learning spaces (DQLS) guidelines, ensuring good lighting, acoustics and ventilation, and to meet a high standard of technology. Wakatipu has a strong focus on arts, indoor and outdoor sports and boasts facilities like a performing arts theatre, gymnasium, a café, aerobics room, dance and music recording studio.
The high technology requirement meant partnering with experts in audio and visual system integration. Leading AV integration company Strawberry Sound provided a HARMAN Professional school integration solution. JPRO NZ, one of New Zealand’s foremost specialists in Sound System design and supplier of HARMAN Professional audio equipment, was called upon because of their audio and product knowledge base, extensive support and ability to provide a unique approach to AV solutions.
The school’s intercom paging system and the sound systems for the gymnasium and auditorium run over fibre ties with Dante distribution between zones, providing a Layer 3 backbone. Audio processing is done with the open architecture platform BSS Soundweb Audio Architect. This design element creates a completely customisable platform for the end-client with an audio and paging system tailored specifically for their needs.
“Due to the open architecture platform, we can add customised panel settings via iPad for the paging system if required”
Future proofing was taken into consideration with the paging and PABX system that has been programmed to offer an all-page or individual-page zones. “Due to the open architecture platform, we can add customised panel settings via iPad for the paging system if required” adds Reuben Pearce of Strawberry. “The PABX has the ability to dial into the BSS BLU-103 if needed, and page school-wide through the headset.”
Audio processing and distribution is done primarily with BSS BLU-103 and BLU-100 signal processors and audio distributed throughout the school with JBL Control series and JBL CSS8006BM commercial series speakers.
“We encountered a challenge ensuring the Dante clocks synched over Layer 3,” comments JPRO NZ specialist Nicholas van Dyk when talking about the audio distribution via Dante. “This was ultimately achieved with the BSS BLU-DAN that adds Dante to the BSS network and has proven to be extremely solid and reliable.”
The music, dance and drama suites are purposeful, with three soundproof rooms available. A music recording studio and dance studio overlook the impressive cultural and performing arts auditorium that features a solid sound reinforcement system with JBL SRX812P powered 12” loudspeakers flown in a left-centre-right configuration. JBL SRX818SP subwoofers are flown using a customised rigging frame and take care of the lower bass frequencies.
“We are extremely satisfied with the way the SRX series is able to handle varying content, providing consistent and even distribution in the room,” adds Ryan Dougherty from Strawberry Sound. Audio is kept within the digital domain with a Soundcraft Si Impact Digital Mixer at FOH, MSB-16i Digital Stage Box with time-alignment and processing via BSS BLU-100.
“Good quality speakers mean better coverage at a lower volume, often with less speakers due to the efficiency of its coverage in a professional audio design” says Nicholas van Dyk. “This in turn has a positive impact on teachers and pupils as they are not mentally fatigued due to poor sound and acoustics.”
With school’s embracing technology from an educational perspective, the importance of using good quality audio visual equipment and loudspeakers is critical. “Good quality speakers mean better coverage at a lower volume, often with less speakers due to the efficiency of its coverage in a professional audio design” says Nicholas van Dyk. “This in turn has a positive impact on teachers and pupils as they are not mentally fatigued due to poor sound and acoustics.”
Building project manager Blair Grier says that Wakatipu High has the best acoustic system he has installed in his 28 years in the industry.
When asked what some of his favourite features of the school were, principal Steve Hall says “The Arts Department with its new dance rehearsal rooms and a recording studio – and the Arts Theatre that can seat up to 600 people, which would be used ‘heaps’!”