The Portico of Ards

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Portaferry is a small market town at the tip of the Ards Peninsula in County Down, Northern Ireland. The heyday of this place was in the mid-1800s and it was then that Portaferry Presbyterian Church (widely acknowledged as one of the best Greek Revival buildings in Great Britain and Ireland) was built. The church hovers above the rooftops of Portaferry, and whether one approaches from the sea, from Windmill Hill above the town, or on foot, it is an iconic and incongruous sight; a perfectly replicated, stand-alone Greek temple in a small Irish provincial town.


While it is still used for regular Sunday worship, many felt that with its wonderful live acoustics, seating for nearly 500, Edwardian organ and superb architecture it could, and should, be used and shared more widely. So the Friends of Portaferry Presbyterian Church (FPPC) was formed with the task of bringing arts events of international calibre to Portaferry. FPPC also embarked on a major fund-raising campaign for the refurbishment and restoration of this Grade I listed building.

When one of the Atelier partners spent a holiday in Portaferry and attended an evening concert, he was so smitten by the acoustics, the architecture and the FPPC's spirit of endeavour that he readily agreed to help with their Heritage Lottery Fund application.

We brought the FPPC committee and its key consultants together for a workshop day. In the convivial hospitality of an FPPC member's front room we guided the project team through the process of naming and defining a proposition, and teased out their thoughts on what would make a strong identity. The outcome presented Atelier with a creative brief, generated solely by the local team. They concluded that the building was at the heart of their project and they wanted it to bring cultural opportunities to the people of the Ards Peninsula.

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We set to work. Looking at photographs of the building, we realised that the six front columns were its most distinctive feature. These columns created a 'portico' through which everyone passed onto the mezzanine level. This U-shaped level with its sweeping wooden pews would be used for exhibitions. Eventually, these seemingly unrelated elements were fused together in a single design; six dots for the columns, a U-shaped mezzanine turned on its side formed the letter 'P', and the proposition 'The Portico of Ards' was aligned with the columns.

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We pushed ourseleves to develop the most creative version of our new logo. However, the options were endless and this lead us to thinking that the richness and diversity of Portaferry could be reflected in not one logo, but many.

Atelier produced a branding document recommending the name 'Portico', the proposition 'The Portico of Ards', and many examples showing how this brand would express itself in print, on signs, online, and in exhibitions. The branding recommendations were well received by the FPPC committee and integrated into its Heritage Lottery Fund application. The project won staged funding, and Atelier will now be guiding the FPPC team through the next phases of implementing the new identity.

It seems that we'll be lured back to this wonderful place for more local yarns, beach walks, and fine company...

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Related blog: Portico Timeline

Something else that came from the holiday on the Ards Penisula: Instructive & venerable