5 arterial routes & 1000 commercial signs: Ruth Brolly. Exhibition as Part of the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival. 30 April - 09 May 2015.

Ruth Brolly (Designer)

Research output: Non-textual formExhibition

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On Belfast’s culturally rich arterial routes, pivoting around an increasingly postmodern city centre, the image of place is created through a combination of buildings, signage, green and vacant spaces. Commercial signs can be the most obvious indicator of socio-economic conditions of people living in neighbourhoods in and around these arterial routes. The level and impact of economic decline, as a result of these routes sometimes being cut off from the central business district, through the creation of major carriageways and other physical barriers in the geography of the city, may be observed in the appearance of commercial signs.These signs surround us in our city streets, everywhere we look we can see their words, materials and colour on buildings, telling us where we can purchase goods or services. We are so used to seeing them we rarely give them much thought, yet what would our streets be like without them? On red brick Victorian terraces in Belfast, once homes and not businesses, the words on signs tell us what is sold, they speak when doorways and windows are mute. Signs interpret the built environment for us much in the same way as captions on pictures tell us what is happening within the photographic image. Wherever we go in the world signs on shops give us information about the sort of place we are in. Even when we cannot read the language on signs the letterforms, colour and materials can give us visual clues on our whereabouts. The condition of signs can even be an indicator of whether a place is safe or not.Businesses choose letterforms to reflect the character or goods and services sold. Solicitors offices, for example, might commonly choose an uppercase font to reflect the seriousness of the business, whereas hairdressers might commonly choose an ornate script and the colour pink to enhance the idea of femininity and beauty. Chinese restaurants regularly use red, yellow and white in their signs, colours culturally associated with luck and wealth. Whatever the business the character of letterforms and colours on signs may provide additional information on the type of goods or services it provides.Only fairly recently have researchers worldwide become interested in the value of local commercial signs as cultural artefacts unique to place. With weathered, broken or faded signs being increasingly replaced, often in the interests of urban renewal and to bolster ailing economies, its worth considering how replacing ‘old’ with ‘new’ signs might affect local character, as colours letterforms and materials used on the signs may change. 5 arterial routes & 1000 commercial signs examines buildings and commercial signs on five arterial routes of Belfast, the Antrim, Falls, Lisburn, Newtownards and Ormeau Roads, to show how commercial signs help to create the image of each of these places. A photographic archive captures the buildings and signs as a snapshot in time in a city that is constantly changing. A discussion session on 07 May with Ruth Brolly and Declan Hill from Forum for Alternative Belfast, FAB, will illuminate on the above themes and of the value of Belfast signage as a cultural artefact.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationPS² Spencer House 71 Royal Avenue Belfast BT1 1FE UK
Media of outputFilm
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 30 Apr 2015
Event5 arterial routes & 1000 commercial signs- Ruth Brolly. Part of the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival. 30 April - 09 May 2015.: Opening: Thursday, 30 April, 6-8pm Opening hours: Wed-Fri 1-5pm, Sat 12-3pm. Talk with Ruth Brolly and Declan Hill (FAB): Thursday, 07 May, 5-6pm. Free and everyone welcome. - CS2 Gallery, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Duration: 30 Apr 20159 May 2015


  • Belfast
  • Arterial Routes
  • Signs
  • Photographs
  • Archive
  • Built Environment


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