Feature: Born again
Feature: Born again
The rebirth of the iconic Conrad Bangkok was the result of an extensive renovation, Richard Lawn discovers more
Whether you’re a solo traveller or royalty, Bangkok’s hospitality trade can cater for all visitors entering through Suvarnabhumi Airport to the Thai capital. Growing affluence can often be measured by a rising cityscape paired with increasing hotel rates. While the new 5-star hotels are capturing the imagination with the latest architectural designs and technologies, the older generation is earnestly keeping up with the pace of their ageing properties. Located in close proximity to Phloen Chit and the US Embassy, the Conrad Bangkok has become a seminal institution since opening its doors in 2003. Sixteen years on, however, the owners decided to wisely reinvest by upgrading the guest rooms, lobby and, of course, the ballroom.
The Conrad Bangkok’s flexible conference space and meeting rooms are converged on a separate four-level wing of the hotel. The versatile, multipurpose room combines 875m2 of flexible event space with a capacity for either 1,200 guests in reception mode or 1,000 in theatre mode. Ideal for concerts, business conventions, weddings, seminars, banquets and special occasions, millions of guests have entered through the pre-function area before being educated, stimulated, wined and dined.
In addition to VIP events, the hotel’s regular clients include the Thai Army, foreign embassies and Asian Summit meetings. Following the decision to renovate, the ballroom was stripped back to plaster in June 2018 and completely remodelled. ‘We maintained an extensive record of our clients’ feedback since opening; in particular, the lack of room brightness, soundproofing between partitions and outdated technology,’ commented Conrad Bangkok assistant director of catering sales, Ms Wipawee.
Sixteen years is a long period of time in audio, lighting and video technology, particularly the 32-channel analogue console, copper cabling, old projectors and decaying loudspeakers. Bangkok-based Intel Craft was called upon to supply and install an easy-to-use, flexible AV system designed by CCD into the refurbished space. Long-term duty AV engineer Pum Thanabul was also consulted for his feedback on what design aspects the divisible room would benefit from.
The visuals have taken a quantum leap forward in ballrooms 1, 2 and 3 for which the main projection system is now a modular Absen LED wall with a pixel pitch of 3.9mm. Measuring 5m x 1m (HxW), each of the 21 front-loaded panels can be interconnected and uncoupled according to the client’s requirements. A further 14 panels can slide into place onto overhead tracks along the 21.74m room width. HD inputs include three Blu-ray players, three Vaddio RoboShot 12 HDBT cameras for tracking speakers and three VGA inputs for each divisible room. Installed onto motorised scissor lifts towards the rear of the three ballrooms, three short throw Epson L1515SNL/ELPLU04 LCD projectors and Grand View motorised screens can provide confidence monitoring for speakers.
Room flexibility was significantly improved during the construction phase in which Intel Craft added eight Crestron wall panels for connection to VGA, HDMI, USB and audio devices. The same locations also contain Amphenol AMW-XLR-0002P microphone inputs for higher SPL audio events in addition to Kramer WP-580R HDBaseT twisted pair wall plates for 4K@60Hz HDMI signals. Finally, product presentations and video playback can be wirelessly streamed with the adoption of the Kramer VIA GO platform, which incorporates 1,024-bit encryption for secure use on the internal network.
Naturally, CCD did not want to incorporate any technology into the overhead 8.23m-high ceiling that would distract from the exquisite overhead chandeliers. Suspended on two Global Truss white supports running the width of the room, minimalist lighting fixtures match the ceiling’s white finish in the form of 12 LED RGBW PAR cans and three LED moving heads. Located in the new control room, three Party 600 lighting controllers have been programmed to create varying lighting moods for each divisible section. Capable of storing up to 40 presets, each controller can be operated via iPad touchscreen over the LAN network.
At the heart of the Dante networkable audio solution, three Yamaha TF1 digital consoles can provide dedicated mixing options for all varieties of functions. ‘Having used an analogue board for so long, it seems so much simpler operating a digital control surface,’ compares Pum. ‘I think analogue operators are more professional, however, as they mix with their ears.’
The L-R ballrooms are only 0.25m and 0.5m shorter in width than the central room. When divided by the new acoustic partitions, these rooms can either rely on an L-R JBL two-way point source system or a ceiling speaker solution. Measuring 8.3m in height, the combined ballroom comprises 18 JBL 321CT coaxial models, 12 of which are flush-mounted into the corners of the décor. Clear speech intelligibility was one of the main requirements of the new design and, as such, six of the 250W-rated Control 321 CT’s consistent 90° broadband pattern control ensured perfect coverage in each of the 263m2 rooms.
When the three rooms are combined, one of two Nexo Geo M620 systems can be called on for live performances. Finished in white, six M620 cabinets are suspended as an array at the front of the central room, should clients prefer the stage to be viewed in landscape mode. Alternatively, the stage can be erected along the lateral wall of ballroom 3 when the audience is sat in portrait mode. The four Nexo NXAMP4x4 TD controllers not only power the two L-R Geo M620 arrays, they also store the DSP settings for the various room combinations.
Weighing under 10kg, each Nexo cabinet combines a single 6.5-inch woofer with a 1-inch HF driver married to wave source. Operating within a frequency response of 80Hz to 19kHz (±3dB), with a nominal peak SPL of 127dB, the standalone Geo M620 arrays are fixed into position courtesy of a fully integrated three-point rigging system.
A Dante network has been created from the source of the 12 wireless microphone channels of Shure QLXD to the Amphenol XLR inputs, the Yamaha TF1 consoles and the NXAMP4X4 amplifiers. Intel Craft created 70 preset configurations for all manner of room functions adopting varying EQ settings. ‘I am no longer fixed to the control room during an event and can control the entire Dante audio network from my iPad over Wi-Fi,’ furthers Pum. A Crestron CP3 processor has been integrated into the design for controlling all the AV and lighting parameters, including the lighting, LED wall and rear projectors.
Now marketed as being equipped with the latest AV facilities, Pum likes to compare the ballroom of Conrad Bangkok to a newly born child. ‘I liked the old design, but now I realise how outdated it had become. It’s a great feeling seeing this room grow up and come to life as we try out different configurations for events that we would never had staged before.’ As their clients return following the six months’ downtime, the commentary log is now awash with praise. But Pum and his colleagues realise that the hotel can never rest on its laurels with rapid changes in technology and cityscapes.