Snøhetta X Le Monde Group: this multi-awarded sustainable wayfinding system is made of 18.131 wooden letter blocks
A Yellow Pencil in D&AD (USA), a Bronze medal in ADC (USA), a Best of Show in Visuelt (NO), a Gold in Visuelt, (NO), a DOGA Award for Design and Architecture (NO), and a Monocle Design Awards (UK). Snøhetta’s wayfinding system for Le Monde Group that honors the handcraft of traditional newspaper printing has mesmerized juries around the globe with the art of the letterpress deeply rooted in the multi-awarded project’s genome.
“Inspired by The Le Monde Group’s iconic history, Snøhetta has developed a highly flexible modular wayfinding system that pays tribute to the tradition and art of newspaper printing” notes the studio.
“Carved from singular wooden types assembled in a galvanized steel frame, this intuitive and tactile wayfinding echoes the adaptable character of modern-day newsrooms in a technology-driven age.”
“The wayfinding has been developed in close collaboration with art directors from the Le Monde Group publications, sparking insightful conversations on the European letterpress’ impact on democratization of information and the subtle yet powerful art of typography. “
Available in three different font sizes, the wooden types were “produced in more than 18,000 specimens assembled throughout the eight stories of the 23,000 m2 building.”
“Meticulously milled from thick wooden slabs of poplar in a local workshop just outside Paris, and coated by a thin delicate layer of ink-black paint translating the Salmanazar font, each individual type represents a specific character. Each type could be used to physically print a singular letter on a sheet of paper, and the tactility of each type clearly expresses the wayfinding’s reference to traditional handicraft” explains Snøhetta which merged the past and the present in a modular wayfinding system that will stand the test of time.
Made of sustainable material, the system was created as part of Snøhetta’s new headquarters for Group Le Monde in Paris, which was completed in 2020, on 67-69 Avenue Pierre-Mendès-France in the 13th arrondissement of Paris.
“Each letter is a block of poplar wood mounted in a simple aluminum frame. The signs are light and durable and are produced locally. The work of finding the right identity and form of expression was particularly important for this project” notes the team.
The final outcome is a signage system inspired by the art of printing invented by Johannes Gutenberg in 1440 that revolutionized and democratized knowledge, that “simple yet brilliant idea that would change the world dramatically and play a particularly important role in the evolution of the free press and the freedom of speech.”
“The wooden blocks are mounted as a traditional lead set, and the signs are put together as the typographers made newspaper pages” notes Snøhetta that opted for a typeface that has its roots in nineteenth-century French type design, and in particular, the specimen of Antique Warnery no.1, published in 1922.⠀
Industrial in style and designed by Juliette Collin for 205 TF, Salmanazar is the font of choice for the project as it brought “a unifying identity carrier for the various publications in the building, each with its own visual identity”. The building is the home of various publications such as Le Monde, Courrier International, Télérama, La Vie, HuffPost and l’Obs.
“The wooden material and aluminum frames play on a layer with the building's interior, at the same time as the signs are eye-catching. Moreover, it is as easy as it is sustainable to make changes when departments move or change, which is not an unfamiliar occurrence in the world of media.”
“The projects that receive the DOGA award for design and architecture are the foremost examples of how the strategic use of design and architecture creates important values for both society, the environment, and the economy” reads the DOGA statement. “The sign system is designed to last as long as the building itself. The signs are locally produced and balance considerations for the environment, duration, and usability in the system. You will never have to produce new signs or throw away the old ones.”
“In the new headquarters of Groupe Le Monde in Paris, it is history that shows the way. Snøhetta has created a flexible sign system that is historically rooted and inspired by the art of printing. Interchangeable modules in wood send clear signals of timelessness and sustainability. The signs play on a team with the visual design language we associate with editorial publications. The sign system for Groupe Le Monde is awarded the DOGA award for design and architecture because it is beautiful, elegant, functional, and sustainable. The jury is pleased with how the system, in its captivating simplicity, not only solves the task as a guide, but also expresses identity and tells a story.”
More Snøhetta graphic design creativity here.