The bench and innovation
Today on the market there are numerous solutions that differentiate the benches by shape, size, material and integrated services. They range from classic rectangular seats, in stone, to those with diversified and sometimes very original shapes. The bench can be equipped with a backrest, integrated lights and devices designed to offer citizens more and more functionality linked to the needs of the moment. In this regard, the urban furniture sector is constantly growing and design is increasingly oriented towards "smart" products that guarantee a constant connection and sharing of data and information useful for users.
A concrete example of this trend is represented by “smart benches
” able to exploit renewable resources, minimize consumption and optimize their performance. In fact, the inclusion of photovoltaic films will be destined to become the standard prerogative of any type of furniture: backrests and seats become energy producers, thanks to the ability to capture the sun's rays and convert them into energy necessary for integrated services or those present in the context. These are benches that offer the possibility to recharge mobile devices, collect useful data such as the presence of seated users or weather and atmospheric conditions. Sometimes, the materials that make up these types of furniture are chosen to be self-cleaning and thus facilitate their maintenance; an example is titanium, capable of destroying the presence of bacterial substances. In this way, thanks to the maximization of hygienic-sanitary conditions, the health of users is preserved, and this prerogative is very important, especially in a moment of global pandemic like the current one. Another feature not to be overlooked is the flexibility of the benches which, thanks to the modularity and variation of integrated systems, can be custom designed according to specific needs.
According to these criteria, the bench is conceived as an element that is part of the surrounding environment, which interacts and collaborates with the components of the context, in order to improve its functioning. It is a demonstration of how such furniture today manages to make the urban scenario more valuable, safe and sustainable at the same time.
The bench as a manifestation of art
It is clear that the bench plays an important role within the urban context from a functional, safety and social interaction point of view. However, it is important to specify how the sessions are also exploited for artistic and aesthetic purposes. Just think of the benches of the Parc Guell in Barcelona, which have become a symbol of how architecture and urban design can be one. In fact, if you look at them, materials, shapes and colors create a visual continuum with the surrounding architectural context. The sinuous shape of the seats and backrests defines the terrace from which it is possible to observe the city from above. Thanks to their strong characterization, the Spanish benches today can be recognized all over the world.
Sinuous benches in Parc Guell - Antoni gaudì, 1926
Another famous example of how the bench can become iconic is represented by the "Big Benches", giant benches that have marked their origin in the Piedmont area and precisely in the Langhe. Born from the idea of the American designer Chris Bangle, they want to be a means to relive the typical wonder of childhood, observing the views of the territory in which they are inserted. Today, from the idea of oversized seating, a worldwide organization has been born that deals with the design of these furnishings-installations, capable of attracting tourists and curious people even to places that have not been previously visited.
But the benches can become a tool to convey important social messages. This is the case of the red benches, conceived as permanent signs, aimed at combating violence against women. This is an initiative that intends to reach everyone and lead to collective reflection about an unfortunately rampant problem.
Parco Ruffini, Turin - Drawings by street artist Karim Cherif
In short, not just a simple street furniture but an element of the collective imagination and a multifunctional component, indispensable for today's civilization.
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