As part of London Design Festival 2015 (LDF), the V&A this year hosted The Ogham Wall, a major installation created in collaboration with Irish Design 2015 which saw Irish design represented for the first time at the V&A during LDF with an ambitious Landmark Project that I had the pleasure of commissioning as ID2015 Programme Director.
Created by Grafton Architects, winners of numerous international awards including the 2008 World Building of the Year Award, working in conjunction with Graphic Relief, the installation was inspired by the Irish Ogham alphabet, dating from approximately the 4th century AD. The installation is monumental in scale, consisting of 23 concrete fins stretching to a height of three meters, standing in the atmospheric surroundings of the V&A’s Tapestry Gallery. Each cluster of fins relates to a letter in the Ogham alphabet and each letter symbolises a native Irish tree. The elemental intensity of the stone-like fins, calls to mind ancient Irish and British sites with circles and standing stones such as Drombeg, Garrane or Lettergorman in County Cork, or Stonehenge in England. The impact creates a multi-layered immersive experience that invites visitors to engage with the tactile surfaces, which vary in texture, temperature and colour.
The Tapestry Gallery is the ideal setting for The Ogham Wall. In contrast to the still and quiet atmosphere created by the backdrop of the fine tapestries, the Wall forms a dramatic and imposing installation that is robust and rough, configured as a path for visitors to move between, with the placement of the fins encouraging views of the tapestries from various angles. The 15th Century Devonshire Hunting Tapestries present their pictorial surface to the public, but behind these wonderful surfaces of threaded pictures are hidden a complex weave of threads that make the pattern. This combination of ‘front’ and ‘back’ surfaces is similar to the making of the concrete fins. Visitors can touch and feel the various surfaces of the concrete, exploring the variations and textures contained in each fin. Each of the 23 fins is unique and cast using a combination of an old-school artisan approach combined with digital moulding technology developed by Graphic Relief. The fins are constructed from a variety of concrete mixes containing various metals that reflect the patterns inspired by various tree bark textures. The project has been sponsored by Techrete Ireland Ltd.