Wonder walls: a new installation at the V&A draws on Ireland's cultural roots

The Ogham Wall opens at the V&A today
Designed by Grafton Architects with the valuable help of designers, engineers and manufacturers Graphic Relief, the Ogham Wall opens at the V&A today
(Image credit: Michael Paul)

There is something ethereal about the Ogham Wall installation at the V&A's softly lit Tapestry room. Which might feel like a bit of a paradox, when on close inspection visitors realise that each of the tall, upstanding fins that form the composition weigh up to 400 kg each. The installation, designed by Ireland's award-winning Grafton Architects for Irish Design 2015's inaugural presence at the London Design Festival, is also a masterful blend of the country's past and future design culture. 

Commissioned by Irish Design 2015 - the country's initiative to promote Irish design internationally - to mark the first time the organisation shows during LDF, the monumental installation stretches almost three metres high. 

The fins' patterns were inspired by the Irish Ogham alphabet, which dates back to approximately the 4th century and consisted of 23 letters - each paying tribute to a different tree species. The clusters of fins - each of them unique - relate to different letters in the alphabet. Similarly, the 23 fins each feature a relief hinting to the tree they represent and were masterfully crafted at the Dublin workshop of design, engineering and manufacturing company Graphic Relief.

The stone-like elements were made using special techniques and digital moulding to combine different stones, concrete and metal and create the visually rich and tactile relieves. Visitors are invited to touch and engage with the structure, which is securely set in place by steel beams and supports.

'The idea of the 'The Ogham Wall' is to translate the abstract 'musical rhythm and pattern of the ancient Irish Ogham script into a three-dimensional, architectural element,' explain Grafton's directors, Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara. 

The atmospheric exhibition will remain on display at the V&A until the 11th October and is only one of the several events Irish Design 2015 have planned during the capital's design celebration. The installation is scheduled to eventually return to Dublin, where it will find its permanent home.

The installation consists of 23 ’fins

The installation consists of 23 ’fins’, each representing a letter of the Irish Ogham alphabet, dating from approximately the 4th century

(Image credit: Michael Paul)

The fins were made out of a mix of stone

The fins were made out of a mix of stone, concrete and metal and the largest weighs about 400 kg

(Image credit: Michael Paul)

Graphic Relief used a special technique

Graphic Relief used a special technique and digital moulding to create the intricate details

(Image credit: Michael Paul)

The Ongham Wall

The end result is an atmospheric, rich and tactile installation, which the visitors are welcome to touch and engage with

(Image credit: Michael Paul)


The Ogham Wall will be at the V&A until 11 October. Photography: Michael Paul


Tapestry Room, V&A 
Cromwell Road
London SW7 2RL 


Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture & Environment Director at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018), Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020) and House London (2022).