ML&F, Museum & Library Furniture LLC
Detail of the Gallery Bench, Slat

Ideas and Updates

ONCE IT'S GONE, IT'S GONE

Historic Sites and Seating for Public Spaces

As an architect who works with historically significant buildings and sites, I always adhere to one simple rule: Once it's gone, it's gone.

Out of respect for an historic landscape, building or buildings, or site, I reject installations of "new old benches," and designs that supposedly maintain stylistic consistency. A fake old bench, or even a good reproduction of an historic bench, interferes with the experience of a genuine historic setting because it is not genuine. Authenticity is the most respectful tribute to historic areas.

The purpose of any bench in any public space is to provide barrier-free comfort and rest. But it must be unobtrusive and style-neutral, neither decorative nor calling attention to itself. And it must be built to last and responsible to the environment.

Recently a client commented that my new design for a bench "will be perfect for our renovation of a mid-century building!" The comment may have been made in the belief that my design would be stylistically consistent with mid-century modern. Actually, I intended my design to be free from style; it provides unobtrusive, comfortable seating for sites of any historic period and would be at home in Williamsburg, Mesa Verde or at The Parthenon.

Tom Shiner FAIA