Immersive journey brings Europe’s heaviest waterfall to life

The centrepiece of the Rhyality Immersive Art Hall, located above the Rheinfall in Switzerland, depicts a year in the life of the falls through a blended presentation of video, music and narration.


Located in northern Switzerland, the Rheinfall is the most powerful waterfall in Europe by average flow rate and attracts thousands of visitors each year.

The Rhyality Immersive Art Hall, located directly above the falls inside a redeveloped industrial complex, seeks to share this experience by offering an immersive journey that showcases the sights and sounds of the falls.

The project was conceived by conceptual artist and film producer Beat Toniolo and local tourism entrepreneur Hanspeter Weder, who tasked architecture firm Dost Architektur with realising its vision for the complex.

The centrepiece of the visitor experience is the Rhine Falls in 4 Seasons piece, which depicts a year in the life of the falls through a blended presentation of video compositions, music, field recordings and narration.

Designing an intuitive visitor experience that would work in the complex’s existing halls was of primary concern for the project managers at Dost. Dost’s project manager and interior designer, Julian Tschanen, says: “The existing space was something of a blank canvas that had to be prepared for a 360° visitor experience.

“It required a multidisciplinary approach to create the correct atmosphere that would also have an obvious flow for visitors coming in to experience it.

“Our perspective from the start was that this would be a highly collaborative project that would benefit from bringing together many different minds to bring it into reality.”

For the task of room acoustics and electroacoustics engineering – which would be required for designing the immersive audio and video systems critical to the presentation – Dost turned to long-time partner WSDG (Walters-Storyk Design Group).

“We had to tackle the challenge of what it means to do 360° sound,” says Tschanen. “We always keep acoustics and systems design in mind from the start in projects such as this.”

The initial challenge was how to design a room with the proper acoustics without the projection screens on the walls causing unwanted reflections that would disrupt the experience. The WSDG team recommended a theatrical fabric to achieve the desired effect.

WSDG’s director of acoustics, Gabriel Hauser, says: “The advantage of this special fabric is that it is suitable for projection, but also acoustically transparent, meaning we can use it for both purposes without the absorption treatment or loudspeakers being visible to visitors.

“Everything is hidden behind the screen which keeps the experience completely seamless.”

The audio layout, created in partnership with Holophonix, utilises 98 speakers to produce an immersive experience. Two layers – one at a height of 1.2m and the second at 3.2m – are provided behind the walls, with ceiling loudspeakers a third level.

All loudspeakers feature a coaxial design to allow an accurate and unusually wide off-axis response. The Dante backbone and the acoustically transparent projection screens allow speakers to be added when required.

The Holophonix processor enables up to 128 playback channels and is capable of all relevant immersive algorithms, such as wave field synthesis and ambisonics. It also provides a powerful multichannel algorithmic reverberation engine.

The system was installed by Bild+Ton. “This is our first project utilising Holophonix technology and it was extremely effective in producing the desired immersive experience,” says Hauser. “The Holophonix approach was cost efficient, especially considering the availability of 128 audio channels in the output section (Dante format).

“Furthermore, Holophonix is part of French speaker manufacturer Amadeus Audio, and therefore able to deliver a tailor-made system from start to finish.”

Curated by art director Devon Miles, Rhyality has expanded its offerings to include other immersive video presentations, as well as serving as a flexible events hall.

Tschanen says: “It went from being a blank canvas as an idea to a blank canvas of an inspiring space that can be utilised for a wide array of interesting events programming and presentations.”

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