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Sientate Bench, A Sustainable Design Expression of Today


Bench Rendering by Flow Design

During the months of March, April and May, the Flow Design team engaged in a design competition organized by Design Museum Portland. In a nutshell, we were asked to design a sustainable bench.

Sustainability’s mantra is that “there are not enough resources” followed by the premise that non-renewable resources are being depleted much faster that they can be produced. Sientate Bench challenges that notion with a new axiom; that there is more than enough to go around and that when designers and creative thinkers come together and think “outside of the box”, more possibilities & resources can be discovered. These discoveries take place as a byproduct of two intermingled ingredients hard work and simple moments of relaxation in which we sit and an apple falls in our head (Isaac Newton’s Laws of Gravity discovery) or a bench grows out of our subtle act of sitting down.

Design Process:

We became inspired by the idea of a simple unit and the concept of multiplicity which we find in nature. We began to break the provided massing into elements that would satisfy the criteria given in the simplest and most sustainable way. The massing became 2 surfaces for sitting and one surface for nature. The surfaces for sitting can be combined into 1 in order to condense themselves and become a single box that reduces its footprint. We proceeded to dematerialize the overall “Box” in order to make it lighter and more flexible. This would allow for deflection in the fixed box sitting surface of the bench. This deliberate deflection triggers a series of springs that push the inner bench outside of the box. The second bench just like a creative idea, simply emerges from within with the subtle act of a person sitting. We were highly influenced by Nanobots and Microbots from the film Big Hero 6. The film showcases a simple robot made out of multiple elements that can communicate with one another and form virtually any shape by working together and sharing their strengths.

Sientate Bench invites us to sit. The concept of multiple elements coming together to form a simple and unpretentious box, was rather appealing to us. This box that can be transformed by the rather poetic act of sitting. The bench becomes a celebration of sustainability by its simple way of giving more where once seemed to not be enough.

Description of Final Design:

Sientate Bench is made out of 3 main elements. First there is a box like bench made of an inverted U shape recycled corten steel. The fixed box is wrapped on Carbon Fiber which is a highly recyclable and durable material. It is estimated that 30% of produced carbon fiber ends up as waste, recycled carbon fiber only loses about 10 to 20% of its tensile strength, making it easy to reuse and effective. 7.5 million to 11 million pounds of carbon fiber is recycled per year making it one of the top sustainable materials. Both the recycled steel and the carbon fiber are dematerialized by subtracting hexagonal part off of them making the structure lighter therefore easier to transport which further reduces its embodied energy.

The second element is a smaller version of the fixed bench. This bench supported by 4 wheels and a track. The piercing of the main structure (Element 1) allows for deflection of the seat which activates a series of springs and levers that push the secondary bench out via the force of the springs and the slope of the track. This bench is made out of the same materials as the fixed box. The track has a stopper in which the wheels rest when in use. When this bench is not needed, it can be placed back into its compacted position and lock into place once again.

The third element is the base of the entire structure which is made out of stainless steel. The durability of this material surpasses that of many when in contact with the elements, making it a great fit for this purpose. This base holds the most important space in the entire composition which is a void created for plants to grow into where once there was a bench.

All steel and carbon fiber elements are perforated with a similar language inspired by honeycomb patterns created by Bees. These perforations also allow for internal lights to glow through the bench at night, making it a beacon of sustainable simplicity.

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