Lunenburg is the best surviving example of a planned British colonial settlement in North America. Established in 1753, it has retained its original layout and overall appearance, based on a rectangular grid pattern drawn up in the home country. The inhabitants have managed to safeguard the city's identity throughout the centuries by preserving the wooden architecture of the houses, some of which date from the 18th century.

Lunenburg is the best surviving example of a planned British colonial settlement in North America. Established in 1753, it has retained its original layout and overall appearance, based on a rectangular grid pattern drawn up in the home country. The inhabitants have managed to safeguard the city's identity throughout the centuries by preserving the wooden architecture of the houses, some of which date from the 18th century.

Historic Solution

It’s a question that challenges so many heritage towns: how do you add anything to your community—like buildings and signs—that respects the past while being relevant to modern times?

That’s the question Form:Media wrestled with when it began planning a wayfinding system for the town of Lunenburg. The town is a living time capsule, with abundant history and heritage buildings dating back to Nova Scotia’s earliest days. Should the new signage reflect the 18th century surroundings—or should it take a more modern approach?

For this project, Form:Media had the pleasure of working with Gerry Rolfson, retired architect and longtime Lunenburg resident. Gerry has enjoyed a very active post-career, often volunteering his time and professional experience on local boards. Gerry is the current chair of the Lunenburg Waterfront Association, and offered advice to Form:Media.

Form:Media’s solution came as a surprise to some, and can be best described as modern and contemporary. Thus, the town’s history and heritage shows up in the text on the signs.

Initially, not everyone agreed on this solution. But Gerry understood this approach and the reasoning behind it. “Any signage or architecture should reflect the best practices of the time. That creates the charm of a place. It’s respectful.”

With the wayfinding system now in place, Gerry could see the benefits working right before his eyes. “I can watch groups of people clustered around them. The signs melt into the background…but pop up when people are looking for them. They are very low-key until you get closer and see how much useful information they offer.”

Next time you’re in Lunenburg, head downtown and check out this present-time solution to an age-old problem. And see for yourself how the past and present can mingle perfectly together.


STATUS

2014–15 (pedestrian wayfinding)
2015 (vehicular wayfinding and trail signage)

TYPE

Wayfinding, interpretive planning

 

    CLIENT

    Lunenburg Board of Trade

    www.lunenburgns.com/

    LOCATION

    Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

    POPULATION

    2,131 (2011)

    sub-Consultants

    Ralph Getson—copy writing. Thomas Miko—cartography (pedestrian directional); Stephen Bishop: cartography (map kiosk); Iain MacLeod—copy writing and copy editor. Atlantex Creative Works: Fabrication; Eye Catch Signs: Installation.

     


    CREDITs

    Photography: Scotty Sherin


    The sincerest form of flattery may NOT be imitation. Today, material and craft differs from that of over a century ago. Often, modern interpretations of the past are imitations without authenticity. Our design team understood the necessity of fitting in with the streetscape of a world-renowned heritage site. They purposefully choose typefaces that are suggestive of eras past, and a colour palette that would not detract from the town’s brightly coloured houses. The sign’s slender vertical form fits the very narrow pedestrian corridor, which often bustles with visitors in the summer season. Located at key corners and junctions throughout the town, the signs share historical information and directions to buildings of interest and the area’s main attractions.
    — John deWolf, project lead
     

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