Task chairs are intended for work, lounge chairs are meant for relaxing, and sofas are for Netflixing. But public benches? They’re whatever the people sitting on them decide. At Kunsthal Aarhus–a contemporary art museum in Aarhus, the second-largest city in Denmark–a new public seating installation, called Oui, plays up their role as a stage for communing with nature and collective interaction.
For the museum, Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec–the Paris-based designers behind Samsung’s Serif television, flat-pack chairs, and more–created four circular, galvanized-steel benches that seemingly levitate above the ground like halos. Two of the benches surround trees, perfect perches to admire leafy boughs; one is oriented around a fireplace and is designed to draw people in, and one is designed to sit under the glow; of a giant lantern attached to it.
The hope is that the benches provoke curiosity, draw people in, and bring more activity to the park around the museum. In the past few years, there have been dozens inventive public seating projects that show how furniture can enliven cities. One Stockholm suburb recently commissioned a handful of prominent designers to create sculptural benches, and San Francisco has been replacing parking spaces with seating in its popular Pavement to Parks initiative. It’s a welcome change from the hostile urban architecture that’s been permeating cities for years.
While the Bouroullecs’s benches are probably too narrow to catch 40 winks, the spirit is to bring people in, not turn them away–a welcome addition to the cityscape.