Threshold signs

If the opportunity to manage the landscape begins at this threshold, or if influence can be exerted, then it may be a good idea to identify this in an appropriate way. This can be by using an obvious sign, such as is common in national parks, Forestry Commission forests and other designated landscapes. The signs can be simple, merely announcing that a special area is being entered, or they can be used to advertise and promote the attributes of the area and the organization involved, where this is permitted in local regulations.

Many organizations have standard sign structures designed to be easily recognizable by their shape, symbols, logos and colours when seen from a moving vehicle. The typeface for the names is also usually of standard type. Variations may occur, but too much can confuse visitors if they do not recognize the name or logo of the organization and the destination. This aspect of corporate identity has three features. First, it maintains awareness of an organization as the provider of a particular product. Second, it gives messages about what kind of experience, its atmosphere and the quality of service are likely to be found at the destination. The third feature is a subliminal one: it could maintain the perception about a particular organization’s doing a good job, providing value for money and thereby worthy of continued support.

Whatever the conclusions from the above observations, the design of a threshold sign should include the following features.

– It should be large enough to enable all the messages to be read at the average speed of passing vehicles. This table shows the size of letters so that they can be read easily:

– The name of the destination or area should dominate over that of any organization.

– The structure should be simple and sturdy, and its size and shape should fit the setting; it may need specific components to resist high winds or to deter vandalism.

– The structure should be positioned against a simple, uncluttered backdrop with a clear, unobscured foreground; it should not become an intrusive feature.

– Symbols or images of the landscape can be used to establish the identity of the area, but these need to be simple: almost caricatures of the salient points.

Approach speed

Reading distance

Letter height (capitals)

km/h

mi/h

m

yd

mm

in

80

50

120

130

300

12

80

50

90

97

225

9

50

30

60

65

150

6

30

18

45

49

115

4.5

15

9

30

32

75

3

15

9

23

25

56

2.25

0

0

15

16

38

1.5

0

0

11

12

28

1

0

0

8

8.5

19

0.75

– The colours used for the structure of the sign should be chosen from the ranges found in the landscape, and should not be too bright or gaudy. Lettering needs to be contrasting, but structural components should be more subdued.

– Text and typography should be large, simple and clear, and should usually employ capitals and lower case. The constant use of capital letters can be difficult to read. Text should be depicted in light, bright colours to contrast with the duller sign structure.

The landscape at the threshold can be managed so as to intensify the contrast and the sense of entering a special place—a ‘pinch point’. A narrow, closed-in part of the forest; some large trees; massive rocks; a dramatic view of a landmark or portal feature—these are all examples of such thresholds.

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Threshold signs
Threshold signs

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This diagram shows how the speed of traffic along a road can be used to

determine the scale of variation along the edge, the duration of views and the size of openings.

Roadside landscape design

Beyond the threshold, the landscape on either side of the road can be developed. This might include creating and maintaining views towards attractive components of the landscape, and managing the edges along the road. If the approach is through a forest there are opportunities to manage the trees: by thinning; by felling, to create spaces of different sizes and shapes; by pruning, to let light through; or by allowing sections to close in. In more open country the quality of the foreground in the vicinity of the road should not detract from the broader views. Fences, walls, earth banks, hedges or areas of trees should be well maintained. Occasional views towards focal points can heighten the visitors’ sense that they nearing the destination, and that their expectations are about to be fulfilled.

The roadside landscape must be developed at the speed at which the motorist is expected to drive. This determines how far ahead it is possible to focus on the landscape, and at what angle from the car it is possible to see it. Also, open views need to be of a minimum width in order to be seen; the faster the speed of the car, the wider the view
needs to be. For example, a 1 second duration at 60 mi/h (100 km/h) requires an opening of 30 yd (27 m), while at 25 mi/h (42 km/h) the space need be only 12 yd (9.6 m) wide.

A survey of the road should be carried out by driving its length in both directions at a typical speed, noting features observable at that speed. A video recording is quite useful, because it can be used to check the location of features, and to time the duration of their appearance in view. If other vehicles, such as coaches or bicycles, or pedestrians use the same stretch of road then similar surveys can be carried out. Coaches give better views over the tops of fences, walls, hedges and embankments than cars do, while more detail is seen from a bicycle or by a pedestrian. If the general sequence of spaces is developed for the fastest travellers, then successively finer layers of detail can be added subsequently for slower ones.

As well as making the best of the landscape, it is also important to try to avoid or reduce the impact of intrusive features such as pylons, derelict buildings, transmitters and quarries. These can be screened if they cannot be redesigned, removed or otherwise blended into the landscape.