On the surface, the fully renovated Helsinki City Theatre, which reopened in the beginning of May, might look exactly the same as before. Behind the scenes, however, there was a large-scale two-year project involving at times more than 300 people. During the renovation, it was also natural to rejig the mechanics of the small stage and the main stage, says project manager Keijo Koli.
"Our goal was to switch to modern stage mechanics and to acquire the best possible equipment for the City Theatre. First and foremost, we wanted the stage mechanics to be safe, usable, versatile, and reliable," he says.
Safety and speed on stage
Insta Automation Oy was successful in an international bid for tenders and was chosen for the two-year project.
"Insta Automation stood out in the very competitive bid because of its quality and price. Once the decision was made, it was easy to work with a Finnish supplier. They are located nearby and speak the same language. Maintenance and repairs are quick to arrange. Of course, we also know them personally, having worked with Insta Automation in smaller projects since 2001."
Two stages were under renovation during the two-year project. The old and slow lifting platforms under the main stage were replaced with new, safe, fast, and versatile equipment. The original equipment of the small stage, dating back to 1967, had reached the end of its service life and was completely replaced.
"When stage mechanics work, the audience doesn't even notice it," Koli says.
"We could do almost all of the same things with the old gear, but the reliability of the new mechanics is in a class of its own. The solution works as planned, night after night, without interruptions."
Hands-on experience of special requirements for international-standard mechanics
Insta Automation has gained stage mechanics expertise since the late 90s from various projects across Finland. According to Group Manager Marko Hänninen, however, the solution used at Helsinki City Theatre was by far the most challenging to date, as the implementation involved extremely demanding machinery and unique solutions.
The key to success were people, says Hänninen:
"Everyone who joins the project is committed and flexible. Everyone has the will and determination to complete the work in schedule." The schedule was tight and the construction project big, and Insta Automation had to work flexibly on many fronts with other contractors and construction companies.
"Through the project, Insta Automation gained hands-on experience of special requirements pertaining to international-level stage mechanics. Hopefully we'll get a chance to put the things we've learned to good use in similar projects in the future."