York Station Bench

2nd Year Project

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Setting the scene

During my second year of study we were tasked with designing a new bench for use within York Railway Station. My design process began with a site visit to assess the existing seating solutions already in use at York Railway Station.

Unlike with majority of other projects in which a problem was presented and I was tasked with deciding my own direction to take, the project was began with a predetermined brief: “design a bench for use within York Railway Station”.

 

Initial Thoughts

Regularly using the furniture provided within station environments when commuting between destinations, I was familiar with the consumer facing side of rail transport. This led me to believe what the archetype of station furniture could currently be.

Given the opportunity to question this archetype was really exciting. Rather that designing a bench to fit with the current norm of station furniture solutions, I wanted to take the opportunity to investigate what station furniture could be.

Research

My design process began with a site visit to assess the existing seating solutions already in use at York Railway Station. This would allow me to solidify my views on the current state of station furniture.

During the visit I assessed the existing solutions against four criteria: Method of construction, Protection (against the outdoors, commuters and theft.), Ergonomics and cost to produce (assessed through manufacturing techniques used).

I also conducted observations of the commuters interacting with these seating solutions, this allowed me to understand who was using the seating, in what situation and how they were interacting with the seating (to eat, waiting for train, etc.…) and for how long.

Findings

Here are a few of the observations which I took note of during the site visit:

 

A large majority of commuters were witnessed using their phones to access social media and spending an awful lot of time looking at the floor. This was a shame, York Railway station is a stunning piece of architecture which seemed unappreciated by commuters.

Another observation was the use of obstructions such as hand rails to remove the ability for users to lie down and rest. This was a desired outcome to stop the homeless from using the station benches as beds, an unfortunate yet real issue with urban furniture.

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Brief/Criteria

From the research collected I defined what criteria my bench must satisfy.

Firstly, the bench must in some way allow the commuters to realise the beauty of York Railway station.

 

Secondly, my bench must satisfy urban seating requirements, such as:

  • The ability to be easily cleaned.

  • The surface must be hard-wearing.

  • It must possess a natural affinity against theft.

  • It must accommodate multiple commuters.

  • It must allow comfort when sitting but remove comfort when laid-down on.

 

Finally, the bench must add to the beauty of York Railways Station, and not remove it like existing seating solutions on site.

Development

When developing the new seating solution the possibility of using a different material compared to the traditional use of steel was considered, mainly a mesh-like fabric. After further investigation using a mesh would solve most problems of a traditional textiles on urban furniture, although mesh is not nearly as durable as steel.

If mesh was to be taken further, the likely outcome would be a station bench which would be prone to vandalism. The mesh would be easily broken/ripped which would lead to regular repair work required, increasing the cost of the bench creating a less viable seating solution for York Station.

 

Although the idea of regular repairs could give each of the benches an individual personality. For example: if a link was broken on the mesh, the link could be repaired with different materials until none of the original mesh existed, almost creating a sculpture.

An aspect of the original criteria outlined is that “the bench must in some way allow the commuters to realise the beauty of York Railway station.” The use of mesh to overtime create sculptures would draw commuters attention away from the admiring the station, therefore not fulfilling this criteria.

Proposal

The final design of the bench fulfills all of the criteria outlined earlier in the design process.

The first criteria “The bench must in some way allow the commuters to realise the beauty of York Railway station.” Was met through the use of a simple shape which would not distract the commuter from the station, the shape also magnifies the station through a mirror finish. This mirror finish reflects the station at the same level as the commuters eyes are likely to be focused, due to the height of the bench.

The second criteria “the bench must satisfy urban seating requirements” was met in a number of ways:

The ability to be easily cleaned, was solved through only using simple large surfaces which could be easily wiped down if necessary. Also, if any spillage was to occur onto the bench, it would simply run off. This is because of the constant gradient on the surface of the bench stopping liquid from accumulating.

To create a hard-wearing surface the bench would be constructed from sheet steel, this is already a common occurrence in the design of urban furniture due to its durability. To maintain a mirror finish on the surface the bench utilise a clear coat of water-based Polyurethane.

To avoid theft, the bench is hollow and therefore has the ability to be filled with water. This will increase the weight beyond the ability to be stolen, but once emptied allows the station staff to relocate the bench where more seating may be required. Because water expands and contracts when heat is applied and removed, the bench will need a slight perforation in the upper to allow for gas to escape.

All of the current seating at York Railway Station only allows for commuters to occupy the seat from a set direction, this is often imposed by a backrest. My seating solution allows multiple commuters to sit on all sides of the bench, maximising the footprint which it occupies.

Comfort is created through the use of a sloping surface, this sloping surface is mirrored on the underside of the bench which allows the bench to tilt towards the direction which the commuter sits. If a homeless person were to attempt to sleep on this bench, the likely outcome would be that they would simply roll off, unable to maintain the effort to stay on the bench required when trying to rest.

The final piece of criteria ”The bench must add to the beauty of York Railways Station, and not remove it like existing seating solutions on site.” Was met through both the shape and finish of the bench. The shape of the bench utilises simple curves and faces as not to create a large visual disturbance within York Railway Station. The mirror finish creates an effect that even if the commuter was trying to look at the bench they will inevitably see the station.

 

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