Ahlens City

Åhléns City Stockholm, Children’s Department
– Great experiences for little customers –

Speakers: Margareta Andersson, Malin Isberg
Client: Åhléns AB, Åhléns City – Stockholm
Agency: Lexter Ljuddesign – Sweden

 

Abstract (Description of project by Lexter)

Åhléns, Sweden’s largest department stores, have completely renovated the top floor of the flagship store Åhléns City. The vision for the new children’s department was a fresh, imaginative and exciting interior design concept with multi-sensory experiences. A functional, educational and creative landscape inspired by the Swedish forests’ animals, with both visual and auditory impressions. A state of the art retail space for young and old! Sound can transform, amplify and create atmosphere. The right sound adds a dimension and enhances positive impressions, can communicate, inform and surprise. It can exhilarate us, stimulate consumption or simply make us feel good.

Lexter have created a transboundary sound design for the entire children’s department and managed the whole process from idea, sound concept, sound production, technical solutions to implementation and installation. The sound design reinforces the visual concept with well-designed soundscapes from the 90 speakers and 8 playful sound features. The soundscapes, where the visitor meets the forest residents through imaginative sound backdrops with music and sound effects, is also heard on the large outdoor terrace. Lexter‘s own software, ”Lexter Sound System”, operates the soundscapes and enables scheduling of volumes and content according to various times of the day. The staff can additionally adjust the volume on site via the software’s smartphone application.

The sound features are local installations with sound experiences implemented through specialized technology. The visitor can listen to mischievous squirrels in the fitting room, press secret buttons with surprise sounds, call on Pippi Longstocking’s telephone, listen to fables on the terrace, or stand under the creaking tree the owl sometimes visits. Several of the sound features are interactive. Åhléns have produced a treasure map to ensure the visitors do not miss any of the sound features. Lexter manages and monitors the entire sound design and updates the sound content continuously.

Lexter has sound designed several parts of Åhléns’ department stores based on Åhléns as a brand and their target audience. The sound design follows the audio branding guidelines that Lexter has developed for Åhléns, which are defined as “Flowery, happy and cheerful pop music”. The challenge for this project has been to conceptualize the sound design specifically for the children’s department. The soundscape and sound events are based on the audio branding guidelines and in the same time, the sound concept also reinforces the department’s visual interior, making it playful and attractive to small customers.

Additional information

The children’s department in Åhléns City in Stockholm requires a flexible sound design, where sound content and volumes can be adapted to various times of the year. In this environment there are both customers spending considerable time there, and staff that work in the department several hours on end. The environment also has sounds from escalators, doors, fans etc. that can create stress and discomfort, and these elements also have to be taken into account during the production of the sound content. The sound design is formed to:
  • Create a seamless and pleasant soundscape without sound gaps.
  • Be flexible and adapted to various days of the week and time of year, and also to customer flows and customer events. With the software Lexter Sound System, the sound content and volumes are scheduled according to desire, and even the sound content is adapted to the department store’s pace and flow throughout the day. The staff can adjust the volume directly on site, in the environment, with the software’s smartphone application.
  • Enhance visual impressions, inspire, and be functional and creative tools.
  • Create ambience, with focus on the experience and well-being of people.
  • Take into consideration the well-being and comfort of the staff, with a well-planned sound content that doesn’t come across as repetitive.
  • To cushion the effect of undesirable sounds in the environment. Fans, squeaks, doors and footsteps become natural elements in the sound productions.
  • The sound productions in the major soundscape are designed so that music and sound productions seamlessly glide over into each other without creating disturbing gaps or instrumental clashes.
  • Be userfriendly for the clients and easy to manage.

 

Soundscapes
The soundscapes are sound backdrops with music and sound effects transmitted by 79 surface-mounted speakers, Evid 3.2 and 11 surface-mounted outdoor speakers, Evid 3.2. This traditional speaker technology is evenly distributed throughout the interior and exterior of the 1,200 sqm sized children’s department to create a seamless and pleasant soundscape with high quality audio reproduction.

Sound Feature: Fitting Room Squirrel
For the fitting room, designed as a house where squirrels live, we have a specially engineered sound production in stereo with sound effects. The sound production presents two squirrels throwing nuts at each other, sleeping, bounding, frolicking and playing around.
The sound installation consists of two audio pucks, Solid Drive, mounted in the ceiling and utilising the entire ceiling panelling as membranes. This gives the visitor in the fitting room a sense of the squirrels running around on the roof. The sound installation is also experienced outside the fitting room to reinforce the visual impression. The audio equipment is not visible, and completely integrated in the fitting room ceiling.

Sound Feature 3 positions: Button baby, Button boy, Button outerwear
In 3 different locations in the children’s department we have positioned buttons, at 80 cm height, on the wall. When someone presses one of the buttons sound effects are played from a speaker mounted in the ceiling above each button respectively. Each button has 30 different sound effects each that shuffles. For this the traditional surface-mounted speakers, Evid 3.2, are used.

Sound Feature: Pippi Longstocking phone
The children’s department has a specific area designated for Pippi Longstocking merchandise. We have installed an interactive wall-mounted telephone here. The visitor can call numbers 0 to 9 and each number plays up an excerpt from one of the Pippi movies in the receiver. Every 15 minutes the phone also rings, and when someone answers, a Pippi sound excerpt is played. The telephone equipment is a Wireless PIR Activated 1960’s Telephone.

Sound Feature: The Tree
When entering the children’s department, the first thing the visitor sees is a large tree. We have installed 3 traditional surface-mounted speakers, Evid 3.2, around the tree. These speakers create a sound ambience illustrating how the tree creaks and grows, the wind in the leaves, and sometimes even the owl, that comes to visit from time to time, can be heard. The sound ambience integrates in the departments transboundary soundscapes.

Sound Feature: U-turn Terrace
The outdoor terrace of the children’s department is open year round which demands an audio technology that can tolerate the Swedish weather, wind and cold temperatures. A U-turn Round has been mounted here, an outdoor speaker independent of a fixed power source, alternatively powered by a crank. It is vandal-proof, weather resistant, and can remain outdoors year round. The U-turn has 8 soundtracks in total, playing stories about the animals of the Swedish forest.

Sound Feature: The Family Room
The Family Room in the children’s department is a room where the children can watch TV, play, and the whole family can take a break. We have installed a surface-mounted speaker Evid 3.2 here that transmits the sound from the TV screen.

Software: Lexter Sound System
The extensive soundscape is powered by Lexter Sound System. The software allows the user to adapt the volume and intensity according to current and outer circumstances. The software makes it possible to easily change the sound content, settings and scheduling of individual volumes in different sound areas respectively, with minute precision, and also to monitor the sound systems externally. Lexter Sound System is internet based and controlled with ease via a computer or the supplied smartphone-app from which the volume can be adjusted ad hoc for all sound zones individually. The app also provides the possibility to adjust volumes directly on site.

Some words from Åhléns City Stockholm (PDF)

Time period of realization

March 2014 – September 2014

Deliverables

Audio
Video