Renowned and prized by children and zoological specialists alike, the Grande Galerie de l’Evolution has been granted an outstanding technical installation which highlights and brings alive the hundreds of naturalized species on display in its cavernous space.
For 20 years, more than 13 million visitors have walked the aisles of the Grande Galerie de l’Evolution, which is housed in the Museum of Natural History in the Jardin des Plantes in Paris.
We have been invited on a tour of this unparalleled space and its recently upgraded sound and lighting systems, taking our opportunity on the weekly maintenance day. We were greeted by resident technicians Frédéric Rocard and Christophe Moisson, composer, sound engineer, acoustician and designer Marc Piéra, whose considerable involvement was key in bringing the new sound of the gallery to life, and Gaetan Byk, sales manager with Amadeus, supplier of all the components of the new PA system.
From left to right: Christian Martin, who oversaw the Grande Galerie project and was in charge of technical coordination between contractors and client. He works in the control room everyday and is the living memory of the installation, along with Marc Piéra standing next to him. Marc is Fred Rocard’s ‘Sound Yoda©’and is the one who truly vested the Grande Galerie with its sound and spirit through his use of loudspeakers. The third is Gaetan Byk, Amadeus sales manager and main architect of the brand’s renewal. Next to him is Frédéric Rocard, the museum’s sound supervisor for the exhibition areas and designer of the sonic atmospheres, and Hakim Si Abdallah, who was also in charge of project coordination, and served as interpreter and buffer between the Grande Galerie and the contractors. He undertook a lot of clerical and accounting work. He was hired in 1994, when the Galerie opened. As he says, ‘I’m at home here, it’s like my country house’.
The new control room shows relics of its past
The first stop on our visit is the control room, where past and present coexist. Here, ancient and now unused video, sound and lighting equipment from a prehistoric era—how fitting—sit alongside brand new systems.
Frédéric Rocard: In 1994 when the Grande Galerie was opened, sound and picture was controlled by DR4 units fitted with 2 Gb SCSI hard drives, a huge capacity for the time. The primary mission for the audio and picture machine room was technicians keeping the original equipment up and running.
Seemingly scattered at random, yet following a well-planned scheme, PMX 4 speakers joined by a few ML 8, arranged as four distinct acoustical areas, help bring to life this superb yet strange wildlife cohort.
SLU : But you were in charge of the soundtrack…