Both of the City and of the wilderness; both of the forest and of the highway; both of the mountain and of the sea. The site of the Northfield visitor centre epitomizes the ambiguous condition of Nanaimo as both a thriving cultural and commercial centre for the mid-island region and as a gateway to Vancouver Island’s pastoral and natural roots.

In a strategically located intersection, Mark Ashby Architecture identified the opportunity to transform a mundane signpost into an iconic monument. Capturing the duality of the site, the proposed signpost utilizes formal ambiguity, transparency, structural and material honesty and abstraction to evoke essential qualities of place while providing an effective wayfinding landmark.

Constructed primarily from VG Douglas Fir, the sign evokes a stand of intertwined fir trees. A lattice of interlocked timber slats provides two primary display surfaces oriented toward the parkway and a structure that is scaled to suit the dimensions and velocity of the highway.

Conceptualized in the round, the sign appears to blur and shift as motorists pass creating a distinctive and unique landmark for visitors and a monument of enduring visual interest locals users of the parkway.

The signpost provides display opportunities to suit multiple scales. Drivers travelling at highway speeds will identify the distinctive “i” of Destination BC from 500 meters or more. Visitors to the information center will be greeted with eye-level signage designed to suit both drivers and pedestrians approaching from the centre parking lot. While additional information identifying Nanaimo will be considered, the striking form of the sign is anticipated to become the strongest signifier for this destination and a gateway marker for the City.

Client: Tourism Nanaimo
Budget: undisclosed
Project partners: SignAge Canada, Awarewolf Creative, Herold Engineering

Northfield Aerial
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