PROJECT | Build a Bench for Kowloon East International Design Competition_Venice Biennale
PLACE | Kowloon East, Hong Kong
DATE | 2013
COLLABORATOR | Jens Pedersen
MATERIALS | CNC Bent Pipes + Tensile Membrane Form work + Fiber Glass Resin Composite
The Yin Yang Bench is an outdoor seating arrangment that symbolizes the interconnectedness of opposing forces, which shape Hong Kong to be one of the most vibrant cities on earth.
The concept of interrelation of two different entities is applied at multiple dimensions. To re-think the idea of the public bench as an interactive and performative architectural enclosure, rather than a mere piece of outdoor furniture.
Designed specifically to energize the area of East Kowloon, the Ying Yang bench takes shape directly under the specific pressures of its immediate surroundings. The bench morphs seamlessly from a sheltered seat with a ‘backrest canopy’ to an exposed ‘backless seat’. Offering the choice of sitting under the sun in the rare occasions of its sighting in Hong Kong, or sheltered away from the heavy rain of its wet summers.
Ying Yang is composed from a hybrid of radically different material systems layered to achieve an efficient yet flexible shell. The intention is to construct a bench with a dual character, one that is opaque during the day and translucent in the same time, a bench that illuminates at night highlighting the dichotomy of diurnal and nocturnal life in the sleepless city.
During the day, Ying Yang captures light from the sun through the flexible Photovoltaic panels that are embedded within the layering of the upper parts of its canopies. The system stores that energy in an underground battery that saves it for later use at night. Then, the entire bench becomes a lantern-like object that self-illuminates to the convenience of its users.
On rainy days, the bench captures rainwater, channels it through grooves on its back spine and funnels it through its opened surfaces. The water is then stored underground to be filtered and used to irrigate nearby plants.
The design of Ying Yang allows it to be placed in any public outdoor space. Parametric digital design tools where used to generate the form of the bench, to enable multiple iterations to be simulated and tested easily within different public space settings. This allows for a site-specific solution within the constraints of the formal system.
The fabrication process starts by CNC bending the filleted corners of metal pipe section profiles. This produces a skeleton onto which a sewn elastic-fabric membrane will be tensioned. The fabric serves as a formwork to add layers of fiberglass and resin, in order to achieve a thin, yet durable compression shell. The process can achieve any complex geometry, offering further flexibility to design a minimal yet functional form.
The Ying Yang Bench intends to gather people around it to rest, contemplate, read and think. The intriguing form of the bench becomes a subject of wonder to the area’s inhabitants. The bench acts as a sheltering rest point turning into a haven of glowing light. The warmth and seclusion of the bench draws people into an intimate moment within the communal spaces where it is placed.