In 1893, The Art Institute moved to its present location at 111 South Michigan Avenue, adorned with its two bronze lions famously guarding the west entrance. Since then, the museum has undergone extensive additions and renovations, the most extensive being the new Modern Wing addition. At 264,000 square feet, the Modern Wing increased the size of The Art Institute by 33% to approximately one million square feet, making it the second largest art museum in the United States.
The Art Institute of Chicago wanted their Modern Wing to employ the latest in audio visual technology in its lobby, meeting facilities and educational center. Chicago-area technology consulting firm, Talaske was brought onto the project for their prowess in acoustic, audio and video consulting. Talaske then turned to systems integration firm Pentegra Systems, to integrate, install and test the new technology systems; Pentegra is an expert in convergence of these AV technologies and we are known in the industry for our attention to detail which are imperative elements to successfully complete such a high profile project.
Pentegra Systems was responsible for the integration of AV systems throughout The Art Institute’s Modern Wing. The Ryan Education Center, The Kenneth and Anne Griffin Court, The Alexandra and John Nichols Board of Trustees Suite, and The Howard and Donna Stone Gallery all required state-of-the-art AV systems for multimedia presentations, signage, telepresence and sound reinforcement.
The Ryan Education Center is comprised of five classrooms, three studios, an educator resource center and a family orientation center, all totaling to 20,000 square feet. The classrooms are equipped with versatile AV systems, including wall-mounted 65” plasma displays, sound reinforcement and wireless microphone systems controlled by wall-mounted touch panels. Each classroom is also equipped with a hearing impaired audio system which consists of ceiling microphones using infrared transmitters to provide sound to personal headsets worn by hearing impaired individuals. The studios feature sound reinforcement, touch screen controls and hearing impaired audio systems similar to the classrooms. DLP projectors and 128.5” projection screens accommodate viewing in the larger rooms. A centrally located equipment room houses equipment racks for the classrooms. These equipment racks contain the on-demand video playback system which can be accessed using the touchscreen controls in each room.
Designed as the “Main Street” of the Modern Wing, Griffin Court flows through ticketing and leads to the galleries; it features multiple dynamic digital signage displays to display museum admission information as well as current and upcoming museum events. Each display consists of a “set-top” box running the digital signage program on a vertically or horizontally oriented 52” LCD display. Griffin Court also features a sound system that is used for special events such as galas and receptions.The Modern Wing’s meeting facility, The Nichols Board of Trustees Suite, occupies the northwest corner of the building’s second floor. The facilities are comprised of a large conference room and a smaller private conference room. The large conference room’s AV systems are designed to be invisible when not in use so as not to detract from the room’s stunning views; the 220” projection screen, front speakers and projector all retract into the ceiling and are concealed by ceiling panels. The projection screen features a motorized screen masking system that accommodates viewing in 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios. Sound is provided through a distributed system of ceiling speakers as well as the two retractable front speakers. This room is equipped with a hearing impaired audio system which meets ADA requirements. The touch screen system controls all of the AV equipment and allows the operator to control the room’s environment including light level and shade control; a second touchscreen panel plugs into auxiliary floor boxes so the systems can be controlled without being at the podium. The smaller conference room is equipped with a 96” rear projection screen mounted flush with the wall. Sound is provided by distributed ceiling speakers and two front speakers mounted above the screen. A touchscreen control panel gives the user control over all of the system operations. Videoconferencing is accomplished using a portable system that is shared between the two rooms. Both rooms are also equipped with multiple wired microphones and wireless mic systems which accommodate a variety of uses in videoconferencing, meetings & lectures.
The Stone Gallery is designed in a manner that is similar to a small black box theater. A control room houses the gallery’s permanent equipment; amplifiers, DVD/CD Player, AV processing and switching. The gallery also features a full complement of “loose” equipment such as a variety of speakers, DLP projectors with various lenses, and a portable computer interface. This equipment can be configured as needed to meet the arrangement of the gallery. The gallery is designed with 18 connection panels mounted in an evenly spaced distributed grid pattern (9 on the floor & ceiling); this allows the artist’s vision to be achieved without being limited by the placement of the AV components.
Art is intended to be seen by the human eye and heard by the human ear. In the Art Institute of Chicago a state of the art audio visual system was absolutely necessary to deliver a quality experience to all observers. Pentegra Systems designed and installed integrated AV systems that not only delivered the technology to enhance the overall visitor experience, but Pentegra’s design and install surpassed the Art Institue of Chicago’s expectations. From the massive wall-mounted plasma displays, digital signage sources and DLP projectors, enhancing the viewing experience to the wireless microphones, amplifiers and retractable speakers, delivering top of the line sound quality, the Art Institute’s new AV systems deliver. Thanks to Pentegra’s unrivaled expertise on both the design and installation side as well as Pentegra System’s unmatched support and service program, the new audiovisual systems at the Art Institute of Chicago will continue to impress all art loving observers.