I am Tim Germain and I have been making furniture now for over 22 years. Over that time, I have been commissioned to make a number of large benches for play areas, parks and the like. In each case, I did what I do, which is to make something original, different, site-specific, unique….. 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 me 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 two years ago, I did some work for Quay Place, Suffolk MIND’s beautiful new heritage and wellbeing centre on Ipswich docks. They loved what I made for them, and so, I explained my vision for The Bench Project. The vision was to make “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. I wanted to design the benches in collaboration with local community groups to ensure every bench was different and to get the locals to buy in to their bench. The benches would be shapely so as to offer the opportunity for the sitter downers to catch each other’s eyes and perhaps share a smile, or even start up a conversation. Some of the “benches” however would, in fact, be individual chairs for those weary walkers who need a rest on the way home from the shops but really don’t want to take the risk of some chirpy chappy striking up a conversation. We’re all different and so are our needs.
And so The Bench Project was born.
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 on the power of benches, too. Who knew?