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Historic Union League Club revamps main room

Few social organizations born in the Civil War era still flourish, but it’s safe to assume that the headquarters of those that do might need refurbishing.

Chicago’s Union League Club dates back to the war between the states, when it was formed as a bulwark against the Confederate sympathies gathering in the Windy City. Eventually, the Club assumed a prominent role in the cultural life of Chicago.

Housed in a historic, 20-story building on Chicago’s Loop, the main room is architecturally interesting, but it poses some acoustic challenges, according to David Hecht, Managing Principal at Sound Planning Associates, an Ilinois company contracted to update the facilities.

"The columns are literally around four or five feet square, and their size does make it a challenge to achieve uniform coverage everywhere in the room," says Hecht. "In addition, the room is used for a range of different events, and the stage and seating setup can vary from one event to another. Inevitably someone will end up sitting behind a column."

SPA designed a sound system built around multiple Renkus-Heinz CFX81 conic loudspeakers. A total of 28 of the 8in, two-way complex speakers were installed, with delays built into the sound field. The Club mandated that visual intrusion be kept to a minimum. Speakers were not allowed to be placed around windows or near the artwork that adorns the room, and the speakers were painted to blend with the beams that gird the structure.

"This is a very distinguished club, catering to clientele accustomed to the best," observes Hecht. "They wanted to know that they were getting the best. And they have been very, very pleased with the system. It sounds great, it looks great, and it does exactly what they needed it to do."