in the news (144)


june 2014 | by megan whitaker

Mt. McKinley's 20,320 feet loomed large in the airplane windows as we flew from Anchorage to Fairbanks on a crystal clear Alaska day. Our destination was two hours south on Highway 3, fringed with skinny trees of the Arctic north, to the McKinley Chalet Lodge.

In the midst of a large remodeling project, the resort had literally moved buildings so more rooms had a view of the Nenana River. We were asked to provide a quick and easy wayfinding solution for this year's tourist season. Our team designed building signs to give each building a letter designation and small metal oval plaques that contained both the building letter and the room number to replace the existing wooden plaques that were organizational chaos and difficult for short-stay visitors to understand.

The weeks leading up to the install were a beehive of activity in our production shop. Large building signs, smaller building directionals and finally the 288 small ovals that would be nailed to the wooden ovals all had to be ready to ship a week prior to our arrival. We also packed all the tools we "might" need for our project. There is not a Home Depot just down the street, so preparation was imperative for success.

Fortunately, the install went without a hitch and signage was installed within a day and a half of our arrival. This allowed us to take in the surrounding beauty and even spot some of the classic mega-fauna of the north: moose, caribou, and a bald eagle.


may 2014 | by susan jurasz

Already known for its rolling vineyards and pastoral scenery, Yamhill County, Oregon, is looking to build its economy by encouraging businesses to consider this lovely area as a home base. As part of this outreach effort, several successful businesses were chosen to highlight the reasons that this area is a great place to live and work. Sea Reach was one of them.

A team from Grow Yamhill County came to Sea Reach to capture us at work and find out why Sea Reach remains committed to this corner of the Willamette Valley. The interview crew spent an afternoon getting to know the staff and production facilities in Sheridan and then spent another day with an installation team at Powell Butte to see the results of our work firsthand.

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may 2014 | by melissa boettcher

After completion of an interpretive master plan for Portage Valley, Alaska, we were recently tasked with creating a wayfinding manual. Like a bread crumb trail a comprehensive plan is developed to lead visitors to the many destinations on this stretch of road.

Mentally driving down the highway; we created a series of signage concepts for the monumental gateways that welcome you to the site, then directionals to cue you destinations nearby, and finally site identifiers to acknowledge you have reached your desired amenity.

The challenge for this project was to gracefully intertwine another use of the valley as a section of the "Trail of Blue Ice." Large pedestrian kiosks and interpretive signs guide the user throughout the site. These over scaled structures are designed to weather the large amounts of snow and blasting winds that sweep through the canyon.

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may 2014 | by cory schott

Located in the shadow of Denali, McKinley Wildlife Lodge in Alaska displays bronze animal statues. Scattered throughout the lodge complex, the statues included: howling wolves (2 sets), black bear with fish, black bear with cubs, grizzly (2 statues), Dall sheep, bald eagle, and a moose. In viewing the statues and their locations, I felt that a direct connection needed to be made between how the sculptor posed the statues and the interpretive text. Generic panels - something Sea Reach strives to avoid - would not do.

Some of the poses the statues were in were easy to write about. The bronze of the black bear with the salmon in its mouth was a perfect opportunity to write about the different fishing techniques that bears have. Just like human anglers, bears switch up their methods when they have trouble catching a fish or river conditions change.

Other statues posed more of a challenge. A 1:6 scale bronze of a moose lying in grass does not immediately inspire a compelling image. To make a connection between the resting moose statue and the rest of the interpretive panel I chose to highlight relevant motivations for the moose as he begins his day: food and mating.

Happily, the moose panel also afforded an opportunity to address one of nature's great mysteries: the dewlap. The flap of skin that hangs from a moose's chin is something that we at Sea Reach have a lot of experience with. Recent exhibits at Silver Lake (Utah) and Portage Valley (Alaska) forced our graphic designers to pay close attention to how they cropped and photoshopped the dangly accessory when placing moose on interpretive panels. Scientists are still unsure what function - if any - the dewlap plays but it is one of the most recognizable features of a moose.

One favorite - though a little gross - fact that I discovered while putting together the moose panel is that the dewlap is prone to freezing in cold temperatures and can break off! Ouch!

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may 2014 | by linda repplinger

I was very excited to begin the illustrations for Portage Valley, and soon realized it was going to be a fun but daunting task: twenty-five full-color paintings and over 65 animal line art illustrations!

Working digitally enabled me to use a mixture of techniques used in watercolor, acrylic, and ink media: solid and transparent lines and washes with different sizes, angles and styles of brushes. One of the biggest benefits was being able to use layers and thus almost work within another dimension of time and paint over and under objects. One of the biggest challenges was training my hand not to shake while intently holding the mouse or stylus! I had to concentrate on relaxing my arm and move from the elbow and shoulder (an old dentist trick). After a few 12 hour days I could feel it!

Both the full-color paintings and the line art illustrations were created to interact with the text and exhibit. Ice cornices threaten to crash down into the text, coyotes pounce out to capture prey, sandhill crane legs dance into view and kayakers paddle through.

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april 2014 | by peter reedijk

The final phase of our projects is often the installation of the work that has sometimes taken months to complete. For visitor centers or large site installations whole crews converge on a location and spend days or weeks finalizing this last phase of the work. But sometimes a single sign installation can be a crew of one or two.

For the installation of the main identification sign at the Wilson's Creek National Battlefield we arrived as a crew of two. Though this may seem more than enough, it looked like a daunting task given the 6 feet high and 25 feet wide dimension of the sign. Luckily enough, between the two of us we have over 50 years of experience to solve most problems we come across.

One can never predict what will go smoothly, and what will turn out to be a problem. It wasn't long before we encountered our first challenge: opening the crate of the massive wooden signs. Packed vertically for transport, the 3" thick cedar wood signs provided a days worth of work, but eventually capitulated and were gently layed to rest on the flat surface for mounting to the sign frame. The remaining installation went pretty smooth: traveling over highway and through rough wild fields with the sign components, installing a 24 feet frame with an eighth of an inch tolerance on an existing rock base, and finally the raising of the sign faces with just two guys and a forklift. Check!

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april 2014 | by susan jurasz

We arrive at the Springfield National Armory a week after our installer, Ray, who has been succeeding despite some interesting challenges. "Yup, they were all surprised when I showed here alone, a crew of one." And indeed he is a crew of one. Ray has been installing Sea Reach signs all over the US and many times he works alone. He likes it. "There is no confusion that way, one opinion, one way to get it done, and that's my way." The truth is, Ray is amazing. We have worked together for over twenty years, he even built the Sea Reach offices (yes, single-handedly) and he has installed in rain, sleet, and snow. When we bid the monument sign for the Springfield National Armory, the job appeared easy and straightforward, but every install has its quirks.

Arriving on Good Friday, Ray met with Park staff to discuss sign location and details regarding his approach to the masonry. Project schedules are set in place months before travel, and I did not realize I had set Ray up to either dig a foundation, frame it up, and pour concrete in less than four hours or remain idle miles away from home through Easter weekend. So, he set to work immediately. All by hand, in less than two hours, he had removed the old sign, dug the foundation, framed for the pour, and met the concrete truck he ordered that very day. While the rest of the project should have been a home run after that, he soon discovered his next challenge. For the rest of the concrete block, brick and mortar work, Ray intended to mix the cement in smaller batches by hand, but the only source of water was in the National Park Service visitor center's bathroom. It was nearby, yes, but the bathroom was kept locked. So every time Ray needed water, he had to flag someone down to let him into the bathroom. He was very good natured about this inconvenience until he was nearing the end of the brickwork on the fourth day and his rinse water was too dirty to use, with mortar hardening and a sense of urgency, Ray could not find a man or woman with a bathroom key. Ever the perfectionist, this made Ray mad. He did ultimately find someone, and he rinsed the bricks in time, but we all got to hear this story when we arrived for the final inspection. Installing exhibits inside or outside always presents some interesting challenges. But we love it. It keeps us sharp, inventive, and forever learning.

Ray's reward was a private tour of the worlds largest collection of guns. While I am not a gun enthusiasts by any means, I was incredibly impressed by the breadth of the collection. My favorite was the world's smallest gun and the "liberator" a mass produced pistol used in World War II. The liberator is quite crude looking, almost not even recognizable as a gun. It was produced by the thousands and air dropped over Europe. It could only fire 2-3 times. That's it. And it was used to "liberate" a German soldier of his weapon.

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march 2014 | by susan jurasz | show project

The day is stunning as our team of six begins work installing an indoor-outdoor visitor center on Powell Butte near Portland. From our worksite, we can see a 280-degree elevated view of east Portland. Mt Hood stands snow-capped in the distance. After months of finessing a series of Rube-Goldberg-style interactives and hand crafting layers of exhibitry, we finally reach the moment of truth: will all the pieces go together and function as planned?

The exhibits focus on two distinct themes: the natural history of Powell Butte, and the form and function of the Portland water system. The topics intertwine - a natural history exhibit describes the geologic formation of the butte, and the related water system exhibit shows how this and other nearby buttes are beautifully suited to storing and delivering Portland's water using the power of gravity.

The exhibits are designed to meet the client's need for flexibility, and access. Each of the huge, double-sided panels can pivot out of the way on six and a half feet steel posts, allowing groups to gather under cover. The cantilevered, gate-like structures allow an instructor to focus on only the natural history story, or only the water story, by configuring the room in such a way that only one story is visible from the inside.

Surrounding the visitor center building are stainless steel cylinders jutting out of the stained and textured pavement - some just a few inches and others as high as several feet. The cylinders, which are topped with bright blue terrazzo, beg to be climbed, sat on or even laid down on. Each cylinder represents a different size of pipe in the Portland water system. The largest pipe, at 90 inches, forms an arch you can walk through, while the smallest, at just a half inch, is a mere peephole.

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march 2014 | by peter reedijk

After years of planning and paving, the last section of the Middle Fork Path is open to the public. The 10-foot-wide pathway now runs from Clearwater Park all the way to Dorris Ranch, opening up a previously inaccessible stretch of the Middle Fork Willamette River.

To enhance the visitor's experience and guide them along the 4-mile-long trail, a series of interpretive panels and maps were developed. They provide an overview of the diverse experiences and the history of the land on which the pathway meanders. A large woodcut illustration beckons the first time visitor as they approach the entrance providing a small taste of the wonders awaiting them on the trail.

To further enhance the path's regional appeal, a bridge across the river is also in long-range plans. Such a bridge would provide access to Lane County's 2,300-acre Howard Buford Recreation Area and Mount Pisgah (another one of our projects), including 16 miles of trails.

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february 2014 | by melissa boettcher | show project

A wave of funding is allocated to many different parks in Illinois each year for exhibits. Twenty-seven parks were on the list. Wading through the information, confirming how many kiosks or post, what color, determining the number of panels and sizes, helping the writer get the research materials, learning twenty seven different clients and finding answers began (and continues) the journey that is the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. All IDNR panels are laid out in a design standard created for two standard sizes, a small horizontal and a large vertical format.

But wait, what do you do if a client wants mini trail markers, a large horizontal format rather then a vertical format, or cutouts? After awhile you realize that each site is truly unique and has its own story that needs to be told... and you roll with it to apply standards to an ever-growing number of signs. This next generation of IDNR signs is as unique as the sites in these wonderful Illinois Parks.

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