Intelligibility made plain at Finland’s Lakeuden Risti Church

While many of Europe’s most famous houses of worship date back hundreds of years or more, Finland’s Lakeuden Risti Church has become a major landmark in just a handful of decades. Located in the town of Seinäjoki, the Lutheran church was designed by renowned Finnish architect Alvar Aalto, and built between 1957 and 1960. Yet despite being listed as a nationally significant heritage site, the church has long struggled with an acoustically challenging environment that left worshippers struggling to appreciate sermons until the recent application of Renkus- Heinz beam steering expertise.

With a name that translates as “Cross of the Plains,” Lakeuden Risti Church is one of Finland’s most recognizable houses of worship thanks to its 213-foot high, cross- shaped bell tower. Inside the main building, 1,200 worshippers can be accommodated in a 164-foot long sanctuary, with a high balcony and large pipe organ to the rear. But while the interior is visually striking, the room’s shape creates a natural echo and poor speech intelligibility. Over the years, attempts had been made to improve the situation, with little success.

“For those worshippers who were seated at the rear of the church, it was hard to understand what was being said,” recalls Juha Tupeli, property manager for the church. “It was high time to resolve the problem.” To do so, the church contacted Helsinki-based consultant Akukon. A number of potential systems were auditioned, with comprehensive logging of the resulting speech intelligibility index (STI). At the end of the process, the answer was clear. Audico Systems was asked to install a simple but strikingly effective solution comprising two Iconyx IC24 steerable column arrays, mounted in a left-right configuration at the front of the church.

“These very discreet, unobtrusive column speakers provide precisely the directivity that the church required, and therefore the speech intelligibility it wanted to achieve,” comments Audico Systems Sales Manager, Ilkka Hilden. “Lakeuden Risti Church presented us with a very good example of what can be achieved even in a difficult acoustic space. In a protected building, you can’t solve acoustic problems by altering the structure – your only option is to find an effective technical solution. I’m very glad that Lakeuden Risti Church found Renkus-Heinz Iconyx.”

“Our worshippers can now understand everything that is said during sermons, no matter where they are seated,” agrees Tupeli. “A lot of people have come to the church and told us that the results of this installation are beyond their expectations.”