Explore how inclusive design can transform the day-to-day experiences of people of all abilities.
The Street Seats semi-finalists created benches representing a wide array of design styles and sustainable materials. However, often the most important element of the design is something outside the scope of the design competition instructions. In the case of the B_tween bench, the most significant aspect is its innovative inclusivity.
B_tween was designed by Gamma Concepts from the territory of Gibraltar. They drew personal inspiration from the team founder’s son, who lives with cerebral palsy and associated mobility issues, with additional guidance from Benji Borastero, Gibraltar’s first Para-athlete and an advocate for accessibility. The design team, headed by Ruth Massias Greenberg, aimed to create “a physical manifestation of inclusivity.” Thus, B_tween was designed with a gap in the center so that wheelchair users can sit in the center rather than to the side as they are forced to do with traditional benches.
Adopted in 2006, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities “reaffirms that all persons with all types of disabilities must enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms”. However, this is not often reflected in urban areas where lack of accessibility is still an issue. Wheelchair users have difficulty using public transportation as well as accessing public restrooms. Often, older buildings housing restaurants, shops, and apartments only have access to the entrance via stairs. These barriers often make disabled people feel like “second-class citizens.”
In conjunction with their focus on inclusivity, the Gamma Concepts team made sure to develop an aesthetically pleasing and sustainable bench as well. Crafting the bench in Gibraltar and shipping it to Portland would go against the eco-friendly mission of Street Seats. Therefore, B_tween is being fabricated at LR. Design Co, a custom metal and wood fabrication studio in Portland, from locally sourced materials, including reclaimed wood and reused steel. The result will be a bench that can seat up to four people, including a wheelchair user.
As the Gamma team states, “Society often speaks by inference, and we want to try change that language one street bench at a time.”
View all of the designs at the Grand Opening on August 4th! Celebrate international, impactful design as you take in the summer sun, enjoy great local eats, and take a tour of the Street Seats exhibition!
All photos courtesy of Gamma Architects.
About Street Seats
Street Seats is an international design challenge which will culminate in an outdoor design exhibition and walking tour around the World Trade Center Portland plaza in Downtown Portland, Oregon. Entrants participated by designing sustainable outdoor sidewalk furniture with a focus on reuse, using environmentally-friendly materials and innovative construction methods. Design teams will record and submit their process along with their final designs to, in the end, create the public design exhibition.
Street Seats provides an opportunity to improve the visibility and livability of an urban area while being socially and environmentally conscious. Individuals and groups from around the world design an iconic bench, or ‘street seat,’ for the World Trade Center Portland plaza. The area is a lively destination for residents and visitors alike, with access to Portland’s major financial, government, and business institutions, as well as the Tom McCall Waterfront Park and a burgeoning tourism district.
We are proud to partner with the artGuideBook app for a self-guided family friendly tour. Simply download the app (through Apple or Google Play) and search Street Seats to see an interactive map of all the benches!