In 2010, American designer Chris Bangle and his wife Catherine designed an oversized bench for everyone’s use in Piemonte, Italy. What started as a project between friends has become the Big Bench Community Project and today, the big benches and their ideology are spreading around the world.
Let us discover what is the meaning of the big benches and how the organization works.
First, the idea behind the big benches is that by stepping on one of them, the visitor has a perception similar to that of a small child sitting on a standard-sized bench. In fact, because of this change of perspective, tourists can look with innocence and wonder at the view before them. Founder Chris Bangle stated: ‘it is a great lesson in the use of contextual innovation. We are so obsessed with discovering new things that we often deny ourselves the interesting feeling of experiencing well-known things but in a different context’.
Furthermore, the decision to choose benches as the subject of these out-of-scale installations is at the core of BBCP’s main goal: to support the community. In fact, Bangles claims: ‘sitting on a bench is a pleasant social gesture’. Benches stand for a moment of relaxation, maybe to admire the environment. Likewise, they are means of sharing with friends and family and, unlike private furniture like armchairs, they are accessible to everyone and built for the community.
As for the logistic of the organization, the BBCP is non-profit. Indeed, it does not sell benches but instead, helps everyone who wants to build a big bench and join the project as a certified member. With every big bench, the BBCP aims to support the local community and increase tourism in the area. Moreover, the donations collected by the project are destined for local’s associations supporting children and art.
As hinted before, everyone can build a big bench! Indeed, the BBCP is free to contact to arrange the construction of a big new bench. After filling out a form to fill, sending photos and video of the chosen location, and specify to the amount of donation collected by the community for the construction, there are other characteristics that are taken into consideration by BBCP to finalize the project.
Firstly, the bench must be placed in a scenic position and be easy and free to access 24/7. In addition, although the design will be the same, the BBCP tries to make the benches as unique as possible; they are of different colors and can also be two-colored, but no patterns are allowed. However, a customized carving in front of the bench is allowed and encouraged to make the bench special and unique. For example, the big bench located on the slopes of the volcano Etna in Sicily features a plaque saying in Sicilian dialect: ‘A big bench for a big Vulcano’.
Once everything has been decided, the project design is sent to chosen local craftsman to ultimate its construction, and once finished, the bench’s location is added to the map available on the website so that everyone can find it.
The benches are increasingly becoming well-known as tourist attractions. Not only visitors can enjoy the view from the benches and discover new places, but they can also collect stamps at every big bench they visit on a passport that can be requested on the website. The stamps feature the logo of BBCP and the name of the location of the bench.
As the project grows and obtains more donations, the BBCP is promoting new ideas for new types of benches. For example, to make the installations even more accessible, they have designed the ‘Big bench for everyone’. These big benches can be accessed by disabled people or people with physical limitations through a ramp connected to the center of the bench.
It is impressive how in just 8 years, the benches have spread around the world; from Italy to Poland, the United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium, Norway, and Spain. Currently, there are 279 benches, and 60 are under construction.
Finally, the Big Bench Community Project anticipates continued expansion and growth around the globe, suggesting that many troubled places in the world might benefit greatly from the view from the benches, it is to say a fresh viewpoint of the world, one that is innocent and childlike.
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