I’ve always been impressed with Ireland’s boldness when it comes to modern design – whether it be buildings, townscape or – today’s subject – signage. That’s probably because my working life was spent designing architecture mainly in England where the brief, too often, seemed to be to produce something that would look as if it had been around for a hundred years… I could never bring myself to turn out pastiche and, consequently, suffered many frustrations with clients and planning committees.
We have just been to see one of the new signs marking ‘Signature Points’ on the Wild Atlantic Way: it’s at Lough Hyne, a marine nature reserve just outside Skibbereen which we have mentioned many times before in our posts. The Lough was a freshwater lake until rising sea levels flooded it with salt water – probably during the time when the Bronze Age inhabitants were carving their rock art in the area. The lake is now fed by tidal currents that rush in from the Atlantic through Barloge Creek. It’s one of the places that we take our visitors to: it has a quiet, rugged beauty – and a fair share of holy wells in its vicinity.
The new sign is everything I would want from a 21st century waymarker: it’s simple but distinctive – completely of its time; well made from a long-lasting modern material – corten steel (mentioned in a previous post). It could still be around for archaeologists of the future to discover a few thousand years from now as the surface will use the natural rusting process to create a permanently stable and very attractive patina. It’s a contemporary monument and – like the landscape around it – rugged.
The design incorporates the Wild Atlantic Way logo – very simply but subtly using a W, an A and a W. I commend Fáilte Ireland and their consultants in this project, Red&Grey Design. It’s worth looking at their website for a detailed description of the identity proposals and the way it all works.
I believe the new signs have received some bad press, with complaints that they are ugly and detract from the natural environments that they advertise. Generally, however they are being placed where there are already car parks, cars, railings, seats, litter bins etc: human activity. I don’t see any problem in adding distinctive and practical pieces of sculpture in such settings – a grand Irish initiative!