Forward. It’s the motto of the city of Birmingham and a word that perfectly describes the vision for this iconic space.
From the very beginning, the Library of Birmingham and its neighbour, the REP Theatre, have been designed with digital technology at their heart to create a cultural hub for the future.
We listened closely to their vision and then designed, built and integrated world-class audio-visual and IT systems that were functional, beautiful, intuitive to use and aesthetically consistent with the building and the Library brand guidelines. The challenge was to deliver seamless solutions across a number of mixed-use areas: conference centres, exhibition galleries, quiet working spaces and even a British Film Institute Mediatheque, a “digital jukebox” of film and TV available to the public.
Our approach was consultancy-led and we invested a significant amount of time with the client understanding their vision, how the building would be used as well as sparking their imagination to what was possible.
Whether you’re attending an event, holding a talk or simply making use of the library’s extensive collections and digital resources, every single digital touchpoint is thoughtfully designed and beautifully built.
What we did for the Library of Birmingham
- Software development
- Systems integration
- Network architecture and security
- Systems management
The entrance to the library is a spacious, double-storey space that reaches all the way through to the back of the building. The client was clear that the digital focus of the library should be front and centre as soon as visitors entered the building. As an events venue, they also wanted to ensure they could communicate the diverse range of activities taking place in the library on a daily basis.
We built a ‘digital gallery’ made up of 22 thin-bezel screens in the building’s silhouette located on a triple-storey wall running from the ground floor children’s area to the ceiling of the double-height atrium. The vision for this area was to make use of the wall as a central feature to demonstrate large-format, high resolution artwork and digital imagery of the library’s range of archive assets.
The vision for the Conference Centre was to produce a world-class facility in the centre of Birmingham. As these high spaces would be used predominately by clients with no previous training on the system, it was important that the audio-visual systems and interfaces were simple and easy to use.
We developed the user interfaces and designed them to be consistent with the building’s overall look and feel. They don’t just look great – built-in tutorials guide first-time users through the features and can flag staff for help when an assistance button is pressed.
The central control panel allows staff on reception to see the status of all rooms, including live content feeds. Taking control of a particular room is simply a matter of selecting it on the layout. Rooms can also be linked together from the console at the touch of a button should an event be oversubscribed.
The technology in the Exhibition Space had to be designed as simply as possible so that internal staff and external exhibition companies could run events with little to no technical support. Instead of complicated manuals, the interface is intuitive to use for a range of audiences and easily controls all aspects of the space, from lighting to sound and more.
Tailoring technology to fit the Library’s unique spaces and different user needs was critically important throughout the project.
For the BFI Mediatheque (booths where members of the public can watch BFI archive films for free), we designed and installed a bespoke audio-visual system for each booth.
Customisation wasn’t just limited to individual rooms and spaces; designing in a holistic way meant taking into consideration the entire building’s needs and requirements.
Health and safety required that headphones must mute when the fire alarm sounds. We designed and commissioned a custom built, digitally processed audio distribution system with 40 connected headphone amplifiers each with individual volume control, grouped to the PC in each booth. These were retrofitted into the oak trim on the booths and hence needed careful design to ensure that they fitted into the available space.
Networked Digital Signage
A centrally controlled signage system that could communicate event information to the Library’s visitors was crucial. As well as performing the analysis and selection of technology we also assisted with creation of a digital content strategy and end-user training.
To ensure the screens looked great from the moment they were installed we created holding content such as the countdown clock displayed on the foyer media wall for the two months prior to opening.
- “It has been a pleasure to work with the team from Vanti and they have been instrumental in the successful technology delivery at the Library of Birmingham. We’ve valued Vanti’s collaborative attitude to working together, with a real focus on getting things done and the end users’ experience of technology rather than continually referring to contracts or specifications.”
Peter Marsden, ICT Programme Manager / Library of Birmingham /