Thursday, April 27, 2006

The world's most elaborate bench?

click photo to enlarge
Is this the world's most elaborate public bench? It has recently been installed on the South Promenade at Blackpool, Lancashire, and is part seat, part art installation, and entirely wind free!

Designed by the architect Ian McChesney, the 26 feet (8m) high stainless steel structure is mounted on a circular rotating base, has a curved wooden bench at the bottom, and a graceful top inspired by a whale's tail. This superstructure is designed to catch the wind and rotate the installation so that the occupants of the seat are always sheltered from it! The engineers, Atelier One, are to build more of the seats along this section of the sea front where they will complement the growing number of art works.

The general public have mixed feelings about this approach to public art in the town, and the cost involved, but I unequivocally applaud it. Not every piece works for me, but many do, and all add visual interest to the new concrete sea-wall and walk-ways. It's great to see public spaces enlivened by the work of artists, and it's positively uplifting to walk among these creations and admire the ingenuity and inspiration, as well as the civic pride, that brought them about.

The bench is quite hard to represent properly in one photograph, so I include two of the several that I took. One, taken with a long focal length lens shows something of the general context, and the other - a wide angle shot - shows the immediate surroundings. Together they better explain the shape, particularly that remarkable top. Incidentally, the distant tall shape with the curled top is a sculpture called the "High Tide Organ", which makes musical sounds, varying in volume and complexity, caused by the air pressure created by the incoming tide!
photographs & text (c) T. Boughen