Design: Nice things for outdoors (2)

(March 2011) Natural stone is not popular with some architects because of its lack of mobility: once a monument is erected in stone, e.g., it is meant to remain there for all eternity. Recent developments in design seem to contradict the preconception or at least attempt to lend flexibility regarding the site.

One example is a recent piece by Italian designer Luca Scacchetti under the title „Orrizzonti Sereni“ („Bright Horizons“) in which he conceived outdoor furniture in a building-block system – it can be taken down and set up again in a new composition with relative ease. True, flexibility has its limits. The individual blocks are, after all, massive stone and require a fork-lift at least to move them. But grooves for ease of handling are already integrated on the bottom.

The idea was born out of the annual project „Da Nido a Guscio“ („From Nest to Shell“) for the advancement of design in urban and street furniture. It was brought to life in 2007 by the magazine Ottagono and the Sun trade fair in Rimini. Last year was all about pieces in natural stone.

Luca Scacchetti’s collection by the title „Bright Horizons“ aims to point out new possibilities for stone and incorporates just about everything one could think of in the way of street and park furnishing: fountains, lanterns, benches, wastebaskets, bicycle racks, and planters. Each individual piece is conceived to fit into the next. The material used is Serena Stone sandstone. The prototypes were completed by Ill Casone. A variety of surfaces can be realized.

Luca Scacchetti

Il Casone

In a manner of speaking the garden lighting system „Strato Out“ by Raffaello Galiotto for Gardens is also flexible. Marble modules can grow to pillars of varying size at the top of which a light is mounted on either side. The standard module is 40 cm high and 20 cm x 20 cm. In contrast stone on the sides of the modules is horizontally scored contrasting in colour and direction. The pieces were produced by Marmi Serafini. Another piece was the bench „Seicento“ in massive travertine by Travertino Sant’Andrea/Arredo di Pietra.

Raffaello Galiotto

Marmi Serafini

Travertino Sant’Andrea

„What’s 4 T Mam?“ is written on one of the benches in Sheffield’s mall, The Moor. The phrase stems from the pen of poet Matt Black who describes the slang of malls and market places. Verses from his poems in conjunction with symbols are eternalized in 15 stone benches. Sheffield’s choice of material was guided by the desire to keep it local. He used Kilkenny Bluestone, an Irish limestone often denoted as granite elsewhere. The surfaces of the benches are honed and the sides flamed. The stainless steel bows are meant to ward off skateboarders. After dark the benches are illuminated in a variety of different colours. The stone was provided by McKeon Stone of Ireland, the calligraphy by Pip Hall. The concept stems from landscape architect CED.

McKeon Stone

Pip Hall


„SitzBlume“ („Sitting Flower“) is the name sculptor Wolfram von Bieren gave his creation which can serve as a pylons and double as cosy benches. They were designed after a rose and in part after the four-petal finial which inspired Gothic church architecture. The sculptor registered the design as a utility model and explains: „Seating derived from natural objects such as SitzBlume unite the dream world and reality of man, his environment and nature.“ Puddles forming on the seats is not a problem, as water runs along the grooves integrated in the surface. The examples depicted are made of Jura limestone and produced by Solnhoven Stone Group. Models in granite are also available, produced by Herrmann Granit & Naturstein. Other types of stone are also conceivable even in combination with stone and wood or for interior use, a blossom of wood on a steel stem.

Wolfram von Bieren (Mail)

Solnhofen Stone Group

Herrmann Granit & Naturstein (German)

Simple shapes are the motto of Architect and Designer Bengt Isling from Nyréns Arkitektkontor when designing the benches on the fyra vindarnas plats (place of the four winds) in Sweden’s Gothenburg: he simply placed blocks of various dimensions together in such a way that benches even with arm rests ensued. The material of choice was Chinese granite St. Andrews Grey (G3503) provided by Arctic Kvartsit. The surface is bush hammered.

Nyréns Arkitektkontor (Swedish)

Arctic Kvartsit (Swedish)

Photos: Designers, companies