Half Dose #95: Zipper Bench
[Photos and drawings are courtesy WXY Studio.]
UNStudio's New Amsterdam Plein and Pavilion is a project born of good intentions -- a gift from The Netherlands to New York in celebration of the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson's arrival in New York Harbor -- but with a reality less than ideal -- it was completed two years after the anniversary and the festivities. As well, the plein (Dutch for platform) was to receive UNStudio-designed seating, a complement to their flowing, flower-shaped pavilion. Instead the cafe is served by off-the-shelf (if high-design) tables and chairs. Enter WXY Studio and their Zipper Bench, installed around the plein and pavilion.
The name Zipper Bench is appropriate, given that the long furniture splits around trees to do double duty: provide seating and protect the (in this case newly planted) trees. One can easily imagine the above bench and its tightly spaced slats as an actual zipper.
Not all of the benches are "unzipped." Some, like the one above, are basically one-half of the zipper. Yet the basic design stays the same: a back raises from one end, where only an undulating seat can be found. As the sections below attest, the design modulates from A to F, low to high. Intermediate armrests break up the continuity of this "landscape," but I would wager that it provides stability for the tall backs.
Previously I noted the design of the bench is a deterrent for skateboarders; this is a more proactive approach that means "skate stoppers" and the like will not need to be added at a later date. Yet the Zipper Bench does not read as being a skate deterrent, since this trait is integral to the design. The tightly spaced slats wrap the tube that extends the length of the bench and defines the shape of the bench in plan. So instead of this tube -- a skateable surface -- being the front of the bench, skateboarders are confronted with the three-dimensional version of highway rumble strips.
Yet what makes the Zipper Bench exceptional -- besides its zippiness, undulating form and consideration of multiple functions (seating, protecting trees, skate deterrent) -- is the way it can follow just about any line in a landscape plan. Straight or curved planting edges are accommodated with WXY's bench, meaning it can be inserted in many places (to date, it's also been installed in the Zaha Hadid-designed Dongdaemun History & Culture Park in Seoul, Korea) and seamlessly follow the original design.