A team from Gamma Concepts led by Ruth Massias Greenberg has made it to the final of an international competition called Street Seats with innovative idea for a bench designed around the needs of wheelchair users.
Billed as “a physical manifestation of inclusivity”, the team’s B_tween Bench incorporates a space for wheelchair users to sit between friends or strangers on public street benches, rather than to the side.
“The most important part of our bench is where there is no bench at all,” is B_Tween’s tagline.
Design Museum Portland, which is running the competition, sought entries that would comprise of functionality while preserving identity and celebrating culture.
“Street Seats activates the visibility and livability of an urban area while being socially and environmentally conscious,” the organiser’s state.
The team, which includes Abel Muñoz, Paul Passano, Marta Garcia and Michael Posso, competed against hundreds of entries from six continents, 24 countries and 22 U.S. states, to have their seat fabricated and installed around the World Trade Center Portland and Tom McCall Waterfront Park, in Portland, Oregon, US.
Gamma Concepts drew their inspiration and guidance from Benji Borastero, a well-known local Paralympian, who helped inform the designers on accessibility and how a wheelchair user would slide into the space.
“Our aim was for our bench to be a physical manifestation of inclusiveness. Society often speaks by inference and we want to try change that language one street bench at a time. Our B_tween Bench has a space in between for wheelchair users to sit in the center rather than on the side of the street bench which cannot happen in a regular street bench scenario,” states the design statement from Gamma Concepts.
The team believes their bench “is both a metaphor and embodiment that disabled individuals should never be on the peripheries or sidelines of society but rather in the epicenter and an integral part of our fabric.”
Although the design was created here in Gibraltar, the bench itself will be built in Portland. The decision behind this was to make the bench more sustainable given the distance between the two locations.
The bench will be made from locally sourced materials, such as reclaimed wood and reused steel. It will also be produced by local labour.
The winner of the competition will be announced in August.