Carlow Northern Relief Road

The Carlow Northern Relief Road project involved landscape design of the spaces along the roadway including the verges, embankments and roundabouts. The main elements of the scheme were enhancements to roundabouts and avenue tree and shrub planting along the route.

The most interesting section of the scheme is at the main Carlow roundabout on the Dublin Road. This area was designated as a site for a piece of sculpture. Following a selection process, internationally renowned sculptor Michael Warren designed a piece in stainless steel inspired by Carlow Castle. Murray & Associates designed the setting for the sculpture which involved the creation of a terraced embankment with textural planting of grasses and bulbs. This scheme was echoed in the surrounding spaces through repetition of planting materials.

In 2000, the scheme received an award from the Association of Landscape Contractors of Ireland, in the Public Authority category.

Sculpture by Michael Warren

The sculpture is a 6-metre high, 3-D grid structure made from square section, stainless steel. The finish is non-reflective, the steel being sand-blasted, acid etched and stabilised.

It is designed to proportionally suggest the robust form of a square Norman tower. In addition to its tower-like appearance, the grid is evocative of a portcullis. The tower-portcullis structure is designed to work in the round: no two views from around the sculpture island are the same.

The impression of a square format (there are no actual squares), is designed to frame (as opposed to block/obstruct), the views across the island, its geometry acting as counterfoil to trees and natural form.

It may be noted that, with the exception of one anchor vertical, all the verticals comprising the structure are curved giving the work lyrical dynamic. The top is deliberately “open” to allow the sculpture to read as a continuum or endless column. Aesthetically the work is paradoxical: it conveys rigour and presence, while literally remaining an open structure.

Though the sculpture evokes entrance-related associations drawn from Carlow’s Norman past, it is constructed using a very sophisticated, modern, material.

Landscape by Murray & Associates

The sculpture is positioned in a prominent space adjacent to the main entrance from the Dublin Road into Carlow town. The entire area surrounding the sculpture island was treated as one unit, linking these areas visually or symbolically to form a legible landscape setting for the sculpture.

On the sculpture island, the design concept sets the sculpture on the highest of a series of grassed terraces, which complements the form of the sculpture. The terraces evoke the defensive position of a Norman tower house. The lowest of these terraces is edged by a retaining wall and a thick, thorn hedge of Holly (Ilex aquifolium). Three Horse Chestnut trees (Aesculus hippocastanum) punctuate the concentric terraces. This tree species is described as naturalised as it was introduced to Ireland by the Normans in the 12th century.

The sculpture, attached to concrete foundation pads, is placed on the axis of the road leading to Carlow town centre. Adjacent to the sculpture base, granite boulders randomly break the ground surface. Red and yellow plants sweep in wide bands across the upper terraces. The planting, besides their bright, heraldic reference, do of course, with the green of the grass, comprise the Carlow colours.

The roundabout and surrounding areas were designed to link in with the overall concept. Use of identical materials including Horse Chestnut trees, granite boulders and swathes of red and yellow plants echo the treatment of the main island.

The landscape and sculpture form a dramatic feature at the entrance to the town of Carlow and signify Carlow’s past.


Project Info.

  • Location: Carlow
  • Client: Carlow County Council & Laois Co. Council
  • Size approx.: 5 km roadway with 5no. roundabout
  • Year of Project: 1998 - 2002

  • Project Team
  • Principal: Terry Murray
  • Project Landscape Architect: Mark Boyle

  • Team Members
  • Engineering: Carlow Council & Laois Co. Council
  • Landscape Contractor: Boro Landscapes
  • Sculptor: Michael Warren