12 Sep 2018 • Sound
A nearly infinite conference space is met with infinite acoustic solutions
You wouldn’t know by standing in front of it, but the Centre International des Conférences (CIC) in the Algerian capital is one of the five largest spaces of its kind in the world. That’s because a large part of its 220,000 square metres is, much like the local dunes that inspired it, designed to ebb and flow and rise and fall with the landscape. The spaces inside it are meant to operate with that same flexibility, as a complex system of partitions can turn a 705-seater conference hall into a reception room in a matter of minutes.
And with the diversity of layouts located tightly within it, how did the venue provide sound fidelity in spaces meant to serve as a showcase for the human voice? By relying on the equally diverse acoustic solutions from Italian purveyor Fantoni.
The Udine-based company had successfully worked before with Fabris & Partners, the Italian architecture firm in charge of the CIC. This project, though, would require a range of solutions more diverse than anything they had previously devised together: a 6,000-seat auditorium was just one of the spaces on the list for the massive undertaking in Algiers.
Founded in 1882, Fantoni has developed a wide-range of sound-absorbent panels focused on both the performance of their products and the wellbeing of the people who use them – sonic pollution is one of the hidden health hazards of urban living. In fact, the company received the Compasso d’Oro for lifetime achievement in 1998, due the innovative solutions that come out of its Research Centre. That’s where products such as the versatile 4akustik, used in the CIC, came from.
The walls of the emblematic auditorium, the central space in the venue, feature drilled 4akustik panels with 5-mm holes. The central section of the ceiling has smooth panels in an oak finish, which ensure a proper balance between reflectance and sound absorption – 4akustik is known in the market for its effective sound-deadening capabilities.
And the multi-purpose conference hall is a spatial and technological feat: it can go from the aforementioned 705-seat layout to a 270-chair roundtable meeting room in a few minutes, thanks to a mechanism that lifts the conference stand and reveals a hall beneath it. Given its many possible setups, acoustics play a fundamental role in its correct functioning, and Fantoni responded by providing a range of custom-made drilled solutions that could deliver on both the technical and the aesthetic side – the same type of finish was used throughout 17,000 sq-m of material, from the conference hall itself to the public areas and one of the restaurants.
We've found that our acoustic panels are like Lego blocks in architects' hands
Achieving this sort of aesthetic uniformity and diversity in performance was possible due to the nature of the partnership between Fabris and Fantoni: the two worked together from the early stages of the CIC development, in order to study the specific products the multi-purpose spaces would require. ‘In our range you can find any type of panel for any project need, from the milled to the drilled solutions, to the suspended isles and the microperforated panels,’ explained Paolo Fantoni, the company’s managing director. ‘We’ve found that architects, and Fabris & Partners is a good example of this, can play with the material to create infinite solutions. It’s like a Lego block in their hands!’