Parc du Sergent Blandan, a former military barracks on 17 hectares (about 42 acres) in the city of Lyon, France, was reimagined to provide Lyon residents and visitors with a new urban oasis and make the park’s rich military history accessible to all.
Nicholas Vrignaud and Analia Garcia Ramirez, working in collaboration with landscape architects Base, Explorations Architecture, and lighting designers On, were responsible for the site’s signage and wayfinding program. Their mission was to help visitors navigate the park and bring attention to its historical buildings and fun new features such as a skate park, an imaginary fort/climbing wall, game fields, and other amenities.
Vrignaud and Garcia Ramirez were inspired by the vestiges of an old military marking system they found on the site. They translated the military system’s simple red stenciled dots into sculptural signage and interpretive elements throughout the park. They kept the red circle as the only identifying shape on the site, creating a unique visual vocabulary and five sizes of signs to accommodate various functional needs from orientation and wayfinding to regulatory information and interpretives.
The system encompasses 50 signs, including five entrance identifiers, 15 igns interpreting historical features, five outlining the park’s sustainable landscaping and design features, and other facilities and directional signs for playgrounds, a skate park, a dog area, and restrooms. To withstand the exterior environment and urban setting, the signs were fabricated in robust, powdercoated steel and aluminum with silkscreened text.
Vrignaud and Garcia Ramirez worked with Swiss typographer André Baldinger and his associate Toan Vu-Huu to choose the project typefaces. Inspired again by the red circles, the team opted for Baldinger’s B-Dot family, a pixel font whose letterforms are drawn from dots but are not based on a grid. The result is a highly legible typeface that looks like it was rendered from a dot-matrix printer, but with the smoothness of a classically designed typeface.
Since the park opened in April 2014, visitors of all ages have been coming to learn about its military history, play a game of badminton or soccer, skate in the new skate park, or climb on the playgrounds. The whimsical red circles add to the fun factor and help them enjoy the park even more, especially at night. The project lighting designers bathed the largest (3,00m diameter) circles in red light to draw attention to the visual theme around the park. Visitors feel invited to interact with the circles, and they have become a popular photo opportunity.
“The boldness and simplicity of the red circle makes this scheme work—it's not what you'd expect to see in this environment. On a small scale it's effective, but when it gets really big, it becomes an icon—as well as a photo opportunity. Although it was inspired by a tagging system from the military history of the site, there's also a nod to the classic ‘You are here’ red dot, and there's a real charm to that.”
“The red circle is a bold punctuation of the environment that entices the viewer but never overwhelms. The scale change, installation, and in some instances the sculptural quality of the system always feel spot on.”
“The red circle makes a dramatic statement on the site. Entry markers have a slightly embedded base that feels inherently cemented to the history of the location. The use of smaller circular building id’s provides a refreshing contrast to the rectangular brick walls they float from. At night, a red aura illuminates the entrance sign and creates a beacon from afar.”
Nicolas Vrignaud (creative director, project manager), Analia Garcia Ramirez (principal in charge, art director), Sofiane Boufar (graphic designer)
Base (landscape design), Explorations Achitecture (architects), On (lighting design), André Baldinger & Toan Vu-Huu (typography)
Lenoir services (primary contractor), Lenoir métallerie (steel structure), Artamis (silk screen print)