NI reservoir operator unveils visitor exhibition and new look

Northern Ireland mountain park tourist attraction Silent Valley is to unveil an innovative educational exhibition for its visitor centre, designed by Belfast consultancy Parker Butler.

At the same time, a redesigned visual identity for Silent Valley reservoir operator Water Service is to be launched next month. Rebranded by public relations company Weber Shandwick in Belfast, the business will become Northern Ireland Water, as it ceases to be an agency of the country’s Department for Regional Development.

NIW is hoping that the rebrand and refurbishment of Silent Valley will result in a significant increase in visitor numbers and revenue, as well as lead to international marketing opportunities, an extension of the use of the site as a venue and an opportunity to promote the centre as a major tourist attraction.

Parker Butler won a five-way tender process to design and build the exhibition for the visitor centre. The consultancy will create a three-dimensional exhibition to illustrate various NIW projects, design and supply interactives, exhibition graphics and a range of historical and wildlife artefacts. The design of the centre has to be ready by early next month.

‘This has to be an exceptionally quick turnaround. The actual exhibition is to provide an informative, innovative history about Silent Valley and show how important the resource of water is,’ says Parker Butler designer Amanda Barrett. ‘There is not a lot of natural light so we have backlit the space to create more of an experience. Locally, there is a feature known as “faces in the stone” which will be depicted in the visitor centre by three-dimensional sculptures with graphic elements on either side.’

A ramp will lead the visitor into a raised rotunda area, designed to provide a walk-through timeline telling the story of three local areas, including how the Mourne mountains were formed and the history of the Mourne scheme. This area will also feature historical artefacts and information on the nature of water.

Interactive elements are to include a global rainfall indicator, illustrating the difference in rainfall in various areas of the world, a water cycle computer quiz, and Internet access to connect to NIW’s website.

There will also be a space highlighting the wildlife that is native to Silent Valley, along with a binocular viewing area.

Parker Butler proposes to use energy-efficient lighting, and install colour-changing and programmed LED lighting within some of the exhibits.

• Silent Valley reservoir is the main water supply source for most of County Down and a large part of Belfast
• The attraction is located within the Mourne Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
• It currently attracts about 80 000 tourists each year, who come to visit the landscape and wildlife
• It also offers a restaurant, information centre, conference centre and craft shop

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