Case Study: The Ardnacrusha Experience

Welcome to Arnacrusha



ESB wanted to create something special to commemorate the company’s 90th anniversary and thought ‘what better than going back to where it all began to remind people of how visionary we were then and how that courage and innovation continues in ESB today?’

Ardnacrusha was Ireland’s first hydro-electric power station and its generating capacity transformed Ireland in the 1920s and 1930s. That vision was groundbreaking at the time – ‘The Shannon Scheme’ as it was known won many international awards – and ESB continues to bring that same level of innovation to everything they do.

Visitor Centre Before

Visitor Centre Before


ESB wanted to use the 90th anniversary as an opportunity to tell this story and so engaged Zahra Media Group to come up with a visual way to do this.

Working with CHL Consulting Group whose numerous high profile tourism projects include The Titanic Belfast, the goal was to overhaul the Visitor Centre and create a Visitor Experience around the power station.

According to Director of CHL Consulting Group, Ali Curran:

“There’s a lot to consider in creating an overarching vision for a visitor experience in a landmark building like Ardnacrusha. The industrial and design heritage is so significant that it’s important to develop an exhibition framework which allows the inherent character of the site to shine through. Using fact as the basis for a relaxed narrative style, the goal was to draw the visitor into the story of Ardnacusha to create a connection to the human achievement, magnified by the impressive location.

Design and print play an important role in creating a multi-media experience, mapping out the visitor’s journey and allowing original archive materials to be viewed through a fresh and vibrant lens. Using a range of interpretative materials to tell the Ardnacrusha story the team could draw out the personal stories and connections of 90 years of the ESB while highlighting the magnitude of the achievement at Ardnacrusha through text, image, audio, moving image, artefact, original materials and modelling.“

As such Ali created the narrative around the Visitor Experience and Zahra was tasked to come up with the overall look and feel for the exhibition and design the artwork to visually interpret this narrative. This artwork can be seen in the Visitor Centre as well as throughout the parts of the station that are part of the Visitor Experience.

A tiny mock-up to get an overview


As this was our first foray into Exhibition design, there were many lessons learned along the way. What follows are 10 tips from the project’s Art Director, Nicola Burgess that might be useful if you ever find yourself working on a similar project:


1. Do tons of desk research and visit other exhibitions to look for inspiration.

2. Visit the site and get a feel for the space and environment. Take lots of photos. If possible a CAD drawing at this stage would be a huge help to explore what can be done.

Gina & Nicola on site

3. Think of space and impact – what font size do you want to use for large statement walls? What would be best to use for boards? Do you want them to be read from a distance and what age groups are going to visit? Always consider legibility.

4. How long will the exhibition be on display? Think about whether the design should be kept simple so that it can stand test of time.


5. Build a good relationship with suppliers and contractors on the project, as these will be the best people for advice and will keep everything on track. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

6. Find the best resolution images for large visual displays.

7. Think of how someone will be directed around the room, i.e. what will they see first? What will they be drawn towards?

Work in progress

8. Question dimensions and ensure you understand how they relate to what is being designed.

9. Make mock ups to get a complete picture, i.e. small mock ups of walls and boards to get an overview, plus real-size physical mock ups to understand how the design and space is coming together.

10. Think of navigation, i.e. if the tour will be lead or if you will need to direct someone to the next space. Consider the atmosphere of the room. How do you want it to feel when someone walks in?

Coming together - the magic of lighting


“With a completely open brief and working to an extremely tight deadline, Zahra came up with the look & feel for the ‘Ardnacrusha Experience’ and then designed the majority of artwork that can be seen in the Visitor Centre and new exhibition spaces in the power station.

They were excellent at working collaboratively with the rest of the production team to produce a Visitor Experience that we are extremely proud of. Zahra’s creativity, attention to detail and client service never cease to amaze me and this being their first exhibition, makes me think that they could probably turn their hand to anything!”

Bernie Healy, Corporate Events Manager & EM Editor


If you have an unconventional project that needs the Zahra touch, do get in touch. We’d love to help!

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