Good Eye: The right bench

Spotted at Washington Avenue Green

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Bench designed by Applied Ecological Services at Washington Avenue Pier park. (DOUGLAS BOVITT)

There's a bench for every park; it's just a matter of finding the right one.

The carved Victorian settee that furnishes Rittenhouse Square would look fussy in a more modern setting. You wouldn't want the Schuylkill Banks' indestructible, off-the-shelf, tubular metal seating to show up along the elegant Parkway.

The designers of the new Delaware River pier park, Washington Avenue Green, solved the problem by crafting their own site-specific seating. The rustic park is built on the remains of a collapsed pier, and it looks as if it was sculpted naturally by the wind and currents, rather than by engineers from Applied Ecological Services. Their simple backless bench perfectly embodies the ethos of the landscape design.

Taking cues from bundled riprap - those stones that stabilize highway embankments and shorelines - the designers used a metal cage for the base, then weighted it with bricks and logs found on the site. Neatly stacked inside the cage, the material creates an interesting textural pattern behind the openwork metal grid. Four thick black-locust slabs form the seat. The result is a bench that is both comfortable for sitting and comfortable in its surroundings.

 


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DIRECTIONS

Washington Avenue and Columbus Boulevard

To reach Washington Avenue Green, follow the meandering bike lane on the east side of Columbus Boulevard. After about 100 feet, a pair of wooden pillars - and two benches - announce the entrance. Other benches are distributed throughout the park.