Richard and Tim Germain have been making furniture now for over 25 years. Over that time, we have been commissioned to make a number of large benches for play areas, parks and the like. In each case, we did what we do, which is to make something original, different, site-specific, unique, beautiful….. using local, storm-felled English oak to minimize the carbon footprint and galvanized steel legs to ensure long …..very long….. longevity.
And since then, people have been stopping us and saying “I sat on one of your benches”….. people seem to like them, maybe because of the novelty factor…… possibly because they are more comfortable….. perhaps because they are never straight?
Then a few years ago, we did some work for Quay Place, Suffolk MIND’s beautiful new heritage and wellbeing centre on Ipswich docks. They loved what we made for them, and so we explained our vision for The Bench Project with “destination benches” in key hub locations, encouraging people to sit and linger a little longer and, egged on by the curvy shape, perhaps shoot the breeze with a fellow bencher. MIND explained to us the modern plague of loneliness and how many people never get to talk to a single human being all day and how a chance encounter on a bench might just make their day.
And then we discovered the research. To be honest, we had always assumed that we would find plenty of research proving that good quality urban green spaces are important contributors to wellbeing and so it proved. What we didn’t expect to find, however, was recent, high-quality, independent, scientific research funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council on the power of benches to impact positively on community wellbeing:
Action Point 1: Benches should be recognised and promoted as a social good, core to supporting mental health and active lifestyle policies.
Action Point 3: Design of public spaces should increase the quantity and diversity of non-commercial seating.
Action Point 4: Benches need to be comfortable as well as robust.
It’s all music to our ears!
And while you are here, please do check out the plethora of different bench-based projects listed on the Research page- clearly, it’s not just we Britons who have a soft spot for a good bench.
The Bench Project: making the modern world a little bit better, one bench at a time.