The Ogham Wall




Mon-Sun 10am-5.45pm

Free Event

For Irish Design

V&A Commission

London Design Festival joined forces with Irish Design 2015 to commission a major installation for the V&A’s Tapestry Gallery, as part of a year-long programme celebrating Ireland’s creative talent.

The project brought together Stirling Prize-nominee Grafton Architects and concrete experts Graphic Relief to create a large-scale installation in response to the theme put forward by ID2015: ‘Liminal – Irish design at the threshold.’

“The V&A’s Tapestry Gallery is an oasis within a dynamic institution,” said Shelley McNamara of Grafton Architects. “In this context, and in response to the theme for ID2015, we wanted to create something with an architectural presence that doesn’t establish a boundary.”

Inspired by the Irish Ogham alphabet, which dates from around the 4th century, The Ogham Wall interpreted letters from this ancient language as an architectural construct of three-metre-high cast concrete ‘fins’. A central linear element brought order to the installation, with an arrangement of smaller perpendicular and angled fins projecting off it to create an abstract rendering of each letter.

“The Ogham script looks very architectural – like the plan for a colonnade – and we were interested in exploring that idea and translating this series of letters into architectural elements,” said Grafton Architects.

Graphic Relief crafted the 23 fins from rough concrete combined with metal details. The surface of each fin was then polished to a smooth finish in some parts, contrasting with slight material imperfections in others that are an intentional by-product of the experimental casting process.

“Together with Grafton Architects, we pushed the concrete in a completely new direction,” said Eric Barrett from Graphic Relief. “It’s a combination of old-fashioned mould-making techniques and amazing contemporary technology. I’ve never seen anything like it before.”

Each Ogham letter traditionally references the name of a species of tree and Grafton Architects worked with Graphic Relief to cast magnified and abstracted tree-bark patterns into the fins. The result was a tactile surface that referenced the richly textured tapestries in the room, and was described by Grafton as “man-made geology that is beautiful to touch and to look at”.

Supported by Irish Design 2015

About Grafton Architects

Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara co-founded Grafton Architects in 1978 having graduated from University College Dublin in 1974. They are fellows of the RIAI, International Honorary Fellows of the RIBA and elected members of Aosdána, the eminent Irish Art organisation. Yvonne and Shelley taught at the School of Architecture at the University College Dublin from 1976 to 2002, were appointed as adjutant Professors at UCD in 2015, and have been visiting professors at EPFL, Lausanne 2010 –2011 and at Accademia di Archittettura, Mendrisio, 2008- 2010, where they were appointed as full professors in 2013. They held the Kenzo Tange chair at GSD Harvard in 2010 and the Louis Kahn chair at Yale in the Fall of 2011. They are joint winners of the Jane Drew Award 2015. Yvonne and Shelley are founder members of Group 91, the architects’ collaborative responsible for the urban re-generation of Dublin’s cultural quarter of Temple Bar. Grafton Architects were invited to show in the Italian Pavilion, as part of the Venice Biennale ‘Next’ in 2002, exhibited in the Irish group exhibition, The Lives of Spaces, at the Venice Biennale 2010 and won the Silver Lion Award at the Venice Biennale Common Ground exhibition 2012. The practice has been shortlisted for a number of international competitions including the New Mackintosh School of Art, Glasgow, 2009, The London School of Economics 2013 and the new headquarters for the Electricity Supply Board in Dublin in 2010, which they won with OMP architects. Grafton Architects were winners of the World Building of the Year Award in 2008 for the Bocconi University project in Milan. The Bocconi project was one of the five finalists for the Mies Van Der Rohe Prize 2009 and in the Building for Brussels Exhibition 2010. The Department of Finance building in Dublin’s historic centre won the British Civic Trust award in 2009 together with the AAI Special Award 2009. The recently completed Medical School and Student Accommodation, at the University of Limerick, was shortlisted for the Stirling Prize 2013 and the Mies Van Der Rohe prize 2015. Current projects include The School of Economics for the University of Toulouse 1 Capitol, the New Campus UTEC University in Lima, both now under construction, Institut Mines Telecom University Building, Paris Saclay, The Town House Building, Kingston University London, and Dublin City Library, Parnell Square, all won by international competition. Grafton Architects were one of six international practices chosen by the Royal Academy to exhibit in the “Sensing Spaces” Exhibition 2014.

London Design Festival

Over nine days in September, the London Design Festival feature hundreds of events taking place across London, showcasing the city's pivotal role in global design. The London Design Festival 2018 will be held 15-23 September, featuring over 400 Partners, Landmark Projects, and V&A Commissions.

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