THE BENCH PROJECT
with Kate Zago + Brendan Baines
The Bench Project started as an anonymous effort by a group of friends to improve the quality of our city’s public realm. As so much of our public space is comprised of roads, the Bench Project seeks to rehumanize public space and increase social connectivity by creating opportunities to be inspired by a commute, to view the city from a different angle, to linger and chat with friends, and to enjoy main streets free of cost. Using the city as the medium, the benches provide a direct, small scale fix or “urban hack” that address the issues intended to be highlighted through the action - in essence, drawing attention to the issue while still being useful. The Bench Project was also inspired by the principle of urban acupuncture; a small pinprick in the skin of the city can create a disproportionately positive result. Among those that came across them or encountered the story through the news, these benches elevated the dialogue around our care and attention to streets as public space – the places where we most often intersect – and how we can all have a hand in shaping them. The project involved a broader community from creation to installation. Numerous friends and volunteers helped build and paint the benches, business owners were asked to ‘adopt a bench for the use of [their] neighbours and community’, and citizens were prompted to tweet suggested spots. This project was recognized at both the 2016 National Urban Design Awards and the 2015 Mayor’s Urban Design Awards.