Mark Byrnes is a former senior associate editor at CityLab who writes about design and architecture.
Redesigned signage is serving a critical role in post-Sandy coastal wayfinding.
By the time Superstorm Sandy finished tearing through the New York City region last November, 14 miles of city beaches had been transformed into disaster areas, with millions of tons of sand displaced and boardwalks completely destroyed. The city's parks and recreation department worked all winter and spring to reopen its beaches for the 2013 season by Memorial Day weekend. There's still more work to be done, but one crucial new element is already: completely redesigned beach signs.
The new signage serves a critical role in post-Sandy wayfinding along the city's beaches. Designed by Paula Scher of Pentagram, which also oversaw the redesign of the city's park system identity, the blue and yellow signs introduce each beach with easy-to-spot location markers, typography, and an image of the site. "This was about making the beach the hero, since the boardwalk is gone," says Scher.
New, clearer informational signs are also in place, replacing ones that Scher casually refers to as "atrocious" (see the before and after images below). Post-Sandy, location markers have become critical, even for locals, to help find the beach. "There typically weren't street signs on the beaches before and access is more difficult now because of the dune construction going on," says Scher. "It's a new learning curve for residents, especially in the Rockaways."
Rockways residents are in fact still waiting for their boardwalk to come back. Stanchions that once supported them have now been painted yellow, hosting new marker signs that provide beach access points and help visitors identify where they are in relation to city streets on the other side of the dunes.
The mayor's office has already allocated an additional $386 million for more restoration work. That will include nearly five miles of boardwalk shoreline protections and repairs to beaches. The Army Corps of Engineers will begin replenishment projects in the Rockaways and Coney Island this summer.