The Ogham Wall at the John F. Kennedy Centre, Washington DC for IRELAND 100

Posted 16.05.16

Celebrating a Century of Irish Arts & Culture

An ambitious landmark project The Ogham Wall, will be one of the key installations at the John F. Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts in Washington DC May 17th to June 2016 as part of ‘IRELAND 100 – Celebrating a Century of Irish Arts & Culture’. The Ogham Wall has previously wowed audiences at London’s prestigious V&A where it was presented as one of a series of events at London Design Festival 2015 as part of Irish Design 2015 (ID2015) a year-long initiative backed by the Irish government promoting and celebrating Irish design in Ireland and internationally.

Created by Dublin-based Grafton Architects, winners of numerous international awards, working in conjunction with Graphic Relief, the installation was inspired by the Irish Ogham alphabet, which dates from approximately the 4th century AD. Monumental in scale, The Ogham Wall features ten concrete fins stretching to a height of three meters which will fill the foyer of The John F. Kennedy Centre. 

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.

‘Presenting an installation at the internationally renowned John F. Kennedy Centre is an incredible opportunity and honour for our company. In developing plans for The Ogham Wall, we wanted to design something that would be visually striking but would also encourage engagement and interaction. Concrete is often considered a ‘poor’ material in the built environment. However, Graphic Relief has developed a very sophisticated mould and mixture of metallics to bring the ancient and modern together, creating beautiful and rich columns that we have placed in an almost rhythmic manner. This exploratory collaboration has allowed us to look at the use of concrete and digital processes as we have not done previously and may inform our future projects.’ says Shelley McNamara, Director, Grafton Architects.

The Ogham Wall reflects Ireland’s ability to weave story telling and language with ancient heritage in the creation of a compelling piece of work that has innovation and collaboration at the heart of its developmental process. Visitors can touch and feel the various surfaces of the concrete, exploring the variations and textures contained in each fin. Each of the 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 fusion of contemporary design thinking with innovative process in the realisation of this landmark project communicates the essence of Irish Design. We are delighted that The John F. Kennedy Centre and Culture Ireland together with the Design and Crafts Council of Ireland have come together on this significant and considered installation to mark Irelands centenary celebrations in Washington D.C.” explains Karen Hennessy, Chief Executive, The Design & Crafts Council of Ireland.

The Design & Crafts Council of Ireland (DCCoI) is the main champion of the design and craft industry in Ireland, fostering its growth and commercial strength, communicating its unique identity and stimulating quality design, innovation and competitiveness. DCCoI's activities are funded by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation via Enterprise Ireland. DCCoI currently has over 70 member organisations and over 3,000 registered clients.

Irish Design 2015 (ID2015) was a year-long initiative backed by the Irish government exploring, promoting and celebrating Irish design throughout Ireland and internationally in order to drive job creation, grow exports and increase competitiveness. The programme for the year included presenting the work of Irish designers at high profile events in design capitals including London, Paris, Eindhoven, Milan, New York, Chicago and Hong Kong/Shenzhen.  ID2015 was convened by the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland (DCCoI), in collaboration with partner organisations, on behalf of the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Enterprise Ireland.

Culture Ireland promotes Irish arts worldwide. We create and support opportunities for Irish artists and companies to present and promote their work at strategic international festivals and venues. We develop platforms to present outstanding Irish work to international audiences, through showcases at key global arts events, including the Edinburgh Festivals and the Venice Biennales. Culture Ireland will present an international culture programme to celebrate the Ireland 2016 Centenary Programme globally.

Grafton Architects was established in 1978. Directors Yvonne Farrell & Shelley McNamara are both graduates of UCD, are Fellows of the RIAI, are International Honorary Fellows of the RIBA and are elected members of Aosdána, the eminent Irish Arts organisation. Teachers at the School of Architecture at University College Dublin from 1976 to 2002, they have been visiting professors at EPFL, Lausanne; held the Kenzo Tange chair at GSD Harvard; the Louis Kahn chair at Yale University and are Professors at the Accademia d’Archittettura, Mendrisio, Switzerland. They have been external examiners at numerous universities including Cambridge University and The London Metropolitan School of Architecture. As well as public lectures in Dublin and abroad, including the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin and the Royal Academy in London, they have lectured widely in European and American Schools of Architecture.

Graphic Relief combines design, engineering and manufacturing to provide clients with luxurious, beautiful and bespoke surfaces. They create beautiful surfaces, engineered to the highest standards. They will work closely with clients to understand and develop the required look and feel, translating ideas into luxurious surface textures, patterns and effects. They manufacture surfaces that can be deeply textured or display photographic levels of detail. Most of what Graphic Relief produces is bespoke and they have developed a range of techniques suitable for concrete, metals and other castable materials.  

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