The Vienna Volksoper (People’s Opera House) recently benefitted from a substantial Artnovion acoustic wood panel installation, which was not without its challenges due to the way the panels had to be mounted on the ceiling’s hard-to-access surface.

Built in 1898 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria, today the opera house puts on around 300 performances of 25 German language productions during an annual season.

The building was initially planned to house a theatre and was constructed without allowing for the acoustic design necessary to deliver an optimised opera performance.

Inevitably, the Volksoper started to offer more and more musical performances and had loudspeakers installed, however the ceiling above the gallery proved to be a problem as it created noticeable and distracting sound reflections.

The Volksoper management team recognised that substantial audio improvements were necessary, leading them to contact Peter Willensdorfer of acoustic consultants, Tonarchitektur. Together with Vienna based Pro Performance, Tonarchitektur decided that Artnovion’s acoustic panels were the best solution.

“The ceiling of the Vienna Volksoper was due for a renovation, and scaffolding was going to be set up for the first time in almost 50 years,” Pro Performance’s Wolfgang Sauter tells CIE. “Tonarchitektur and Pro Performance have been closely working together for many years, so Peter approached us with the idea to span an arch of diffusors on the ceiling above the gallery to get rid of unwanted reflections without introducing too much absorption,” he explains.

“We looked at the issue, discussed it with Tonarchitektur and came up with Artnovion’s Logan Diffusors as we knew these would be a more than adequate solution for the job.”

In particular, Artnovion’s Logan diffusor panels were selected for their ability to break up the sound reflections and to give the audience a more even acoustic distribution. In addition, the panels would cancel the unwanted reflections that were bouncing back from the ceiling to the stage.

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Mounting The Panels

“The mounting of the panels was a big issue for us insofar as the Volksoper insisted that we should not only deliver the panels, but also mount them due to our experience with the brand and operating challenging installations. The panels were customised by Artnovion with an integrated steel plate functioning as a central mounting device since the only way to align the panels throughout the whole installation was to mount them in one single point,” Wolfgang explains.

“At those points holes were drilled through the ceiling and the threaded M12 bolts the panels were mounted with were secured with steel plates and screws above the ceiling. Needless to say that there were only very few places where those points were easily accessible, and not exactly matching with the ceiling’s steel construction! And, of course, they wrenched an all-in price from us for the installation before. However, our great team overcame all those problems: our locksmith produced some customised parts and we also managed to get the whole installation done within the strict time frame that was imposed on us.”

A total of 128 Artnovion Logan diffusers were installed on the ceiling of the Volksoper – not only selected for their technical ability, but for their unique design and appearance. The panels offer soundproofing by controlling audio levels and improve quality by shaping the way waves interact within a space.

“The client asked for a solution for the audible acoustic problems (too much reverberation and unwanted reflections) and totally relied on our expertise,” says Wolfgang.

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“Firstly, it is quite unusual to be able to adapt a theatre, let alone in Vienna – and then the Volksoper, being the second largest theatre in Vienna and quite a famous institution – in a way that the solution becomes part of its appearance. However, Logan’s outstanding design made this possible, and Artnovion of course delivered a customised solution in RAL 9010.”

The Artnovion installation has delivered an acoustic improvement beyond expectation and has delighted the management, audiences and performers alike.

“It’s a very exceptional installation in one of the most beautiful theatre and opera houses in Vienna and it adds some design to its appearance, rather than compromising it,” Wolfgang reflects.

“Everyone – the management, the technical director, the head of sound and last but not least the actors – seem to not only having realised the improvement, they are also obviously proud of it. We believe they also think of it not only as an acoustic improvement, but also an optical statement.”

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