What exactly do you call these kind of benches? They’re super cool, but what are they in your words? Are they art? Are they furniture?
I have been calling these simply “Modular” or “Re-configurable” Benches. For me they right now are functioning pretty well just as benches, but I built them with the intention that they could become a larger more sculptural installation. I am thinking Los Carpinteros’ La Montana Rusa meets Jeppe Hein’s Social Benches.
What was the origin or genesis of this specific project? How did you get engaged?
I got involved through Trevor. We had worked on a few other projects before, including one of his video art installations for which I built several large boxes with writeable surfaces. He saw a need to build something creative in the space, and thought of me.
What problem(s) or need(s) were you trying to address in creating this project?
When Trevor first introduced me to the project, we began by talking about all the specific needs of the space and all the different directions we could take it. The main issues that I decided to focus on were: Something Modular and movable, something that inspired communal social interaction, something simple yet aesthetically pleasing, and something that could be expanded upon over time.
Why did you choose the format you chose (benches) to solve this problem?
These benches just seemed like the perfect starting point and solution to my main set of problems. As objects they are functional and fun, people know exactly how to “use” or interact with them as objects so they are sure to draw people in. They create their own sense of place adding another interesting place to convene in an already dynamic work environment.
Why did you choose the materials that you chose to create the benches?
The materials were chosen because of their aesthetic value as well as their functionality. I used a really thin walled square steel tubing that is really strong and lightweight compared to wood or other materials. The bench tops are made of white pine which is close to the cheapest possible wood, but I think ends looking pretty darn good.
For other people who aren’t familiar with this type of process, what would you liken it to?
The process of fabricating the benches is similar to any other sort of fabrication project. It all starts as raw material that you buy in long lengths that you then chop up and assemble together. Specifically though with this project I used a MIG welder to weld the steel frames which, in the most crude rudimentary language could be described as a glorified hot glue gun. However, the welder uses high voltage electricity to melt additional steel into your joints instead of glue, in order to weld the steel together. The other trick to this project was to properly plan out all your cuts in order to use the material most efficiently and to make the fabrication process easier. When building something like this your orders of operation is important.
How do you think you could continue to add to or extend this project in the future?
Right now the benches consist of four standard benches and two, custom sloping pieces that bring the bench seat down to the ground. I would like to see this project expand to include more of these unique and custom units. For in stance I would like to make a section that rises up to table or counter height. I would also like to see a section that overlaps nests on top of the existing sections.
Now that you’ve done the benches, what do you think you would want to do next at Oakstop?
I would like to try and use this same fabrication style and apply it to some of the larger communal work tables. I think a full 4’x8’ tabletop could look great with the simple steel frame.