New Signage for Outside Collections in the Montet Botanic Garden, Nancy, France
Volume 3 Number 5 - December 2000
During the first twenty years of its construction (1975-1995), the Montet Botanic Garden has gradually been enriched by different collections, representing over 12,000 different species. It is a vast park, bordering the city of Nancy, with wide pathways that lead the visitor to discover the botanical riches of the different collections, including those that are sheltered by the tropical greenhouses.
In order to improve the cultural and scientific mission of the site, it was decided that an informational signage system should be installed.
There were three main objectives for the signage under consideration:
- To welcome visitors
The lack of specific information provided at the entrance of the gardens meant that visitiors did not appreciate the unique importance of the garden. For many visitors, the Montet Botanic Garden was simply considered a recreational park on the same level as the different parks around the city of Nancy.
- To guide visitors
The topography of the site gives no hint of the diversity of the plants growing in the garden, as the various collections are spread over an undulating area of 25 hectares. When visiting the garden, visitors are sometimes disorientated and do not know which points of interest are within close reach.
- To inform visitors
The living collections are wonderful cultural and teaching tools for educational purposes and also for enhancing public awareness. There must be permanent visual aids that enable visitors to gain access to this knowledge.
The overall project has been entrusted to a company which specialises in signage. It included the following stages:
- overall study of the site;
- global proposal for equipping the site;
- design of a graphic charter;
- designing the various signs and stands;
- the definitive installation.
The design specifications for the signs were that they should :
- have a homogenous and global outlook (materials, shape and colour);
- be in harmony with the rest of the site;
- be made of materials of a rustic and durable nature ;
- have a strong aesthetic and visual quality;
- be well written with pertinent information.
Given the three functions, the various constraints and the specificities of the site, the signage design that was chosen and implemented was the following :
Choice of Signs
- For general information (opening hours, entrance fees, rules and regulation, etc.) a sign was installed in the car park which remains is available to the public even when the garden is closed. An area reserved for temporary information, equipped with a display cabinet, was also added to the reception area for visitors.
- For guiding visitors, an overall map was located in a vertical position at the entrance to the garden. In the form of an axonometric view (achieved using an aerial photo) it gives an overall view of the site. The map is the main starting point for visitors.
- Numerous markers that were incorporated along the paths to provide visitors with additional guidance and invite them to go in the direction of the different centres of interest in the garden.
- As far as providing information is concerned, each collection has one or several pedagogical stands that give a global description of the theme. Along with the pleasure of discovering the species present in the garden, visitors have the added satisfaction of acquiring knowledge and understanding.
Choice of Materials
The materials chosen had to be guaranteed to resist any variation in climate (a range of 50°C), ultra violent light, the specific garden environment and also the risk of vandalism. For the vertical signs, (signs providing information and maps) and the stands, lacquered aluminium was chosen. Anti-graffiti varnish was used on all the visible parts of the signs. The additional markers along the paths and the pedagogical stands are made of enamelled lava. It is a material that does not freeze, that is self-cleaning and resists graffiti and scratches.
All the signage benefited from additional landscaping which facilitated its integration in the site. The use of the same design for all the pedagogical stands reinforced the structural role of the signage within the garden.
The succinct information provided by the signs was completed by various printed documents such as maps, guide books, and descriptive sheets for the collections.
The joint approach (signage and documentation) further consolidated the cultural mission of the Montet Botanic Garden. The intention is to improve this in the future with a more ambitious policy for welcoming the public by measure such as the construction of a reception building and longer opening hours.