Design meets GRC
The concept for a new design of garden seating began with a visit to the recently opened Malcolm Sargent House, Bexley, founded to help young people recovering from cancer regain their confidence and self-esteem and to focus on life, not the illness. As they have spent so much time inside hospitals and institutions, being outdoors is important. The idealism and energy at the centre provided the inspiration to undertake a project to suit the needs of garden seating, and I made this my degree project at Ravensbourne College.
Those at Malcolm Sargent House required a seat that was permanent, yet permitted a degree of flexibility. There was a wish to break with hierarchy, i.e. seating around a table, and to bring a degree of playfulness and informality into the garden. Young people often place modest demands on the seat type, and in many situations accept sitting almost anywhere: on the floor, street, stairs, the edge of fountains, flowerpots and grass.
One element that was important throughout the whole project, was the thought of `leaving your mark' and to close the illness off and start moving on with life after cancer. This is done in a very literate way, by scratching into the surface.
As the seating will be outside, the material had to be weatherproof. I selected GRC as it satisfied strength and durability requirements. I was aware of the material's popularity as wall cladding and was interested to see it in use in other applications. It is flexible and durable and both economical and easily manufactured. As a designer, I find it important to work with the material and to use its qualities as a part of the design rather than design a shape and then find a suitable material.
As the garden seating was developed as a college project, the prototype was made in the workshop with the available tools and machines. In production this would be different.