Bench Gang

 

"The designer has achieved a maximum effect here with very simple means” - Johannes Hünig

 
Bench Gang  | IMM Cologne Pure Talents Contest 2019 2nd PRIZE WINNER | © Phat Design

Bench Gang | IMM Cologne Pure Talents Contest 2019 2nd PRIZE WINNER | © Phat Design

 

Bench Gang are a family of simple, chunky, playful benches!

Bench Gang spark the imagination, bringing joy to their users: giving the mind a break from whatever stressful thoughts might be going on. Bench Gang are a personal expression of play, and the process of creating them was Christian’s therapeutic exercise of remedying depression.

Bench Gang harmonise the nature of their material with the design. The unrefined nature of softwood, the fat joints holding the benches together, their coloured ends and feet; all convey characteristics of creative play: embracing imperfections & letting your imagination run free!

Bench Gang  | Diagonally joined legs create the playful image of the Bench Gang’s movement | © Phat Design

Bench Gang | Diagonally joined legs create the playful image of the Bench Gang’s movement | © Phat Design

"There’s a lot of humour here. It’s fun to have the benches in the room – a bit like having pets that come to meet you when you enter. Together they also create a good setting. It’s only wood and paint, but the design is pure and really good."

Wilfried Lembert (CEO, Minimum Einrichten)

Ironically, during research into fun and playful design I was diagnosed with severe depression. Bench Gang began from my increased curiosity and research into mental health. As well as to help me better understand and improve my own mental health. Understanding that I have this mental illness, and wanting to find ways to help move forward and overcome it, led me to exploring the mental health benefits of play in design.

I have always felt pressure to succeed at the highest level, which isn’t always such a good thing. The aim of this project was to give myself freedom away from pressure, and to simply play through design; experiencing the positive intentions of play through a series of craft-based activities.

Play benefits us all hugely. From the day we are born and throughout growing up, play helps us to expand our imagination, creativity, and self-awareness. In terms of mental health, it helps us to alleviate stress, and just take a step back and see things from a less serious perspective.

I have always been fascinated by the personality and character that you can see in things. Wendell Castle’s skill of bringing different dimensions into furniture design has had a big influence on me. Castle’s Boxer chair was a stand out piece: the way the rear legs are perched onto their toes and how the backrest curves over like a wagging tail - it looks full of life to me!

I wanted to infuse a sense of imagination into the Bench Gang. Not wanting to prescribe a need to see them playfully, but to gesture towards a sense of life. A subtle heel or toe lift is enough to give the viewer a chance to create their own story.

The humble bench is a friendly and social piece of furniture. Bench Gang harmonise the nature of their material with the design. More luxurious woods often overshadow softwood, but the Bench Gang give us a chance to really admire the material.

I have always enjoyed seeing the brightly coloured end grain of wood at timber yards - that is what inspired me to colour the end grain of the Bench Gang. There is something intrinsically playful about colour, and it brings another dimension to the Bench Gang.

Christian Cowper

Bench Gang are part of the larger project ‘Play’. To learn more, please check out the ‘Play’ blog post!