Sunday, April 6, 2008

Take a Seat

Continuing a more focused look at some landscape elements - there were a bunch of interesting seating concepts that have emerged lately - from the grand, to the contextual, to the bovine. Similar to the discussions regarding texture and materiality, furnishings are something we tend to have a hard time evolving as a stylistic component. Part of this has to do with budgets that warrant off-the-shelf solutions. Part of it has to do with our lack of creativity in pushing design to include not just spaces but the items that augment and define these spaces.

Below is an example from San Francisco of Mint Plaza by CMG Landscape Architects of a pretty typical urban furnishing palette for an urban open space that offers a combination of fixed seating with wood caps and movable, brightly colored, durable chairs for adaptability. I'm not criticizing here, as I like the space and use of furnishings - but just using this as a good illustration of the typical treatment, well done. (There's plenty of examples of the same done very, very poorly). Read a full overview of this project on Brand Avenue.

:: images via Brand Avenue

A couple of recent projects envisioned some pretty inventive ways of providing new models of seating for parks, as well a providing organic natural forms. The first, via gardenhistorygirl, is an entry for a contest which "aims at encouraging designers to imagine and create innovative urban furniture to be placed in the Jardins du Fleuriste park in Brussels..." The following is one of the winners by "...Anika Perez and Brice Genre, this winning entry is designed to look like the shadows cast by the canopy of a tree."

:: images via gardenhistorygirl

Be sure to check out the rest of the competition entries here as there are a number of great ideas. Another recent example of nature informing the shape and style of furnishings. Klein Dytham architecture uses cherry blossoms as the concept for outdoor party furniture Tokyo. From Dezeen: "Large cherry blossom benches float down on to the lawn. Simply sculpted from blocks of polystyrene the seats and tables are coated with a urethane surface which spreads the pressure and stops people in kimonos from puncturing the polystyrene with their chop sticks!"

:: images via Dezeen

This level of integration and customization can lead to significant forms, either derivative or formalistic, not only for the seating itself but to tie a design together. A well-publicized award-winning example of this is the Red Ribbon project, found in the Tanghe River Park, Qinhuangdao City in China (via Coolboom). The overall form of this contrasting form literally knits it's way through the fabric of the site.

:: images via Coolboom

On a more specific scale the ribbons are used for lounging, and have some variation due to planting pockets in the top surface, as well as integrated lighting that provides a mood and illumination during the evenings.

:: images via Coolboom

An example of some integrated customization, via BDonline, is found in a new design for Nottingham's Castle College, marrying wood + gabions in a pretty interesting wall/bench combinations. Although I have to speculate if the gabions would be comfy seating as well - but if the point is to keep people off - it's pretty skateboard proof and nobody likes a jagged hook of steel poking them, well...

:: image via BDonline

Finally, for ultimate customization, perhaps you're doing a project in a faux Western streetscape, or want something ironically evocative of a gritty urban areas meat-packing district roots. My guess is LandscapeForms just isn't going to cut it - and you may need something custom. And by custom, I mean headless cow benches by Julia Lohmann (via Atelier A+D). Classic. Take a seat - see if you can hold on.

:: images via Atelier A+D

And if these custom jobs don't strike your needs, head over to MyUGDG for a comprehensive list of primo outdoor landscape furnishings from a range of designers. Either way, take a seat, and see if you can get it by the contractor...

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