University of Greenwich Wayfinding

School’s In

Holmes Wood designs a fresh and inventive wayfinding program for the University of Greenwich’s new school of architecture building.

Holmes Wood (London) channeled Le Corbusier and Sol LeWitt in their colorful, polygonal solution to the wayfinding scheme at the University of Greenwich’s new School of Architecture library and academic building.

The Holmes Wood team responded to architect Heneghan Peng’s vision of an “urban grain” (striation) running through the site, its dimensions related to natural light penetration, air movement, and scale. Narrow and wide bands structure the 16,200m² building, narrow bands containing courtyards and wider bands defining teaching and learning spaces.

Working with the concept of voids and the complex grid structure that runs through the building, the team created its own sub-grid and designed a play on positive and negative spaces. They conceived signs as a series of polygonal 3D forms inspired by the cubic structures of Sol LeWitt. To complement the building’s white-and-gray color palette, they took inspiration from Le Corbusier’s tonal color palette. Every sign is unique, responding specifically to its exact location within the space.

“We wanted a color palette that was timeless, and the tonal relationship had to create the 3D forms,” says Lucy Holmes, creative director. “We felt the combination of Sol LeWitt’s blocks and Le Corbusier’s colors would create this relationship, especially in a building where the architects worked with a rigorous set of mathematical proportions. All of the signs connect with the architectural grid.”

The high-profile, £76 million building relocates the School of Architecture and Construction from a remote site in southeast London to the center of Greenwich near a cluster of historic naval sites with UNESCO World Heritage status. Heneghan Peng won an international competition to design the building. Its exposed concrete frame invites students to participate by adding installations and models, and a huge, high-ceilinged hall was designed for “crits,” the heart of architectural education. The building also includes the library, gallery spaces, a café, and 14 living roof gardens that serve as a lab for landscape architecture students.

Holmes Wood designed wayfinding elements to animate the unique space. The building has one main entrance into a foyer, where the building then splits into the library and school of architecture. The space is made up of glass and concrete, sometimes with expansive views and sometimes very compact spaces. Holmes Wood chose to define the floors by color, and created bespoke sign forms for each location. Shadows in the sign forms suggest direction and animate cool spaces.

The program encompasses about 400 signs, including building and floor identity, room signs, and statutory signs. The signs are primarily stove-enameled aluminum panels, stud fixed, with silkscreened text to match the color palette. Updatable directories incorporate digital prints. The corporate typeface is Helvetica, and Holmes Wood chose a medium weight to soften the information graphics.

UNIVERSITY OF GREENWICH SCHOOL OF ARCHITECTURE AND LIBRARY WAYFINDING

Client:  University of Greenwich
Location:  London
Architect:  Heneghan Peng Architects
Wayfinding and Signage Design:  Holmes Wood
Design Team: Alexandra Wood (project director); Lucy Holmes (creative director); Eileen Tunbridge, Emma Price (wayfinding strategists); Jason Saunders (designer); Matteo Rosso (information graphics)
Fabricator: Rivermeade Signs
Photos: Luke Hayes

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