If benches are, by definition, for use by more than one person……………. then why on earth are they all straight?
We appreciate that there is a place for the traditional “public” bench – they are always straight, a bit visually unexciting and often not actually that comfy but people choosing a memorial bench for their loved one in the park normally go for the oak ones so they obviously hold a special place in the public’s heart.
Our proposition, however, is that some benches in some key hub locations should be different:
- Our benches are designed in messy art workshops with local community groups so the benches fulfil their needs- this also encourages people to feel ownership of the finished bench.
- They are then hand-made by me with a locally-tailor-made galvanised steel sub-frame (cos it breaks my heart to see all the legs rotting off all the benches in all the parks just because councils don’t add metal feet!)
- English oak is used for the slats for the seat and back- the slat design means the wood can quickly air-dry after it rains (so that the wood lasts for decades!) while it also simplifies and minimises maintenance.
- We only use English oak (quercus robur) as it outlasts all other native sustainable timbers (how old is the door on your local church?) and our oak is needs-must felled locally by the volunteers of the fantastic Greenways Countryside Project (no transporting timber half-way around the world for us!). We did experiment excitedly with recycled plastic but it not only lacks rigidity as a material (it soon sags under its own weight) but it is also, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, much less eco-friendly than sustainable timber like ours.
And when installed:
- The unique, original designs of our benches draw people to sit on them.
- Our trademark curviness means people sit aligned in a way that encourages…. but doesn’t force…. conversation.
- People linger longer out of doors in a convivial, community-friendly space that is free-to-use and democratic……. helping to turn a hub into a hubbub……. with all the wellbeing gains that brings.
So, can someone please tell me: why on earth are all the other benches straight?
CURRENT PROJECT: at Ormiston Endeavour Academy in Ipswich (install end Sept. 2021)
A few of the Bench Projects in the pipeline:
- Snape Maltings (BPA and Suffolk Craft Society) to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the SCS and the completion of the Maltings new flood defences (2022)
- Langer Park, Felixstowe for East Suffolk County Council as part of the Queen’s Green Canopy (2022)
- Holywells Park, Ipswich- collaboration with Friends of Holywells Park, Ipswich Wildlife Group and Cliff Lane Primary School. ACE funding bid is in, awaiting decision (2022)