Monday, November 09, 2009

Longest bench in the world versus longest - and ugliest - bench in Chicago

The longest bench in the world? In the resort of Littlehampton in West Sussex, by Studio Weave.
Just £68 buys your own dedication on one of the multi-colored slats.

The most endless bench in Chicago? We give you this bit of loveliness, running alongside Da Bean in Millennium Park.
What genius thought this up?Extended postscript: Actually, a pretty talented guy, as poster Duane has brought to my attention: artist Dan Peterman. It's called Running Table. It's actually 100 feet long, and, according to the City of Chicago website:
Made from the equivalent of two million recycled milk bottles, the table is simultaneously a product of consumption and an invitation to consume more as visitors sit down, relax and enjoy their own lunch at the table. Like a picnic bringing people together, the table reminds visitors of the communal social purpose made possible by individual actions.
It's originally appeared in 1997 in a section of Grant Park that is now M.P. What inspiration it provided to the guy in my second photo (above) who's on his knees, appearing to be burying his head in his girlfriends lap, I won't even venture to guess.

Running Table looks a lot more at home on the lawn shown in the 1997 photo, when it was the only object in a lightly traveled area. Placed on the heavily trafficked Chase Promenade, blocking access to Cloud Gate except at its end points, it's a massive obstruction that restricts movement to no good purpose but to serve as a hammer-upside-your-head approach to making a point about waste and recycling. It's like the drunk passed out in the doorway that forces you to walk around him. I'd be very interested to find Running Table in another setting, and will be very happy to see it leave its current location next February.


Unknown said...

Actually, it's Dan Peterman, and he is a genius.

Lynn Becker said...

Unfortunately, not here. Creating an impermeable barrier - what is it, 60 feet? - makes absolutely no sense and it sharply restricts movement on the plaza to absolutely no purpose. It's suitable for a pie-eating contest, not Millennium Park, in front of Cloud Gate. Broken up into manageable segments it might be more acceptable, but at this scale, it looks cheap and it's a giant, arrogant intrusion.

Unknown said...

Hmm. He didn't design it for Millenium Park. But it's still hard for me to see genius in a 100 foot long picnic table.

Erik Maldre said...

Your observation that it belongs in a grassy location is excellent, Lynn. The bench is taken completely out of its intended context. It loses a great deal of its identity as a picnic table when placed on a public (sorry, technically private) square.

It just looks overweight, obtrusive, and lost. Perhaps it's now more of a commentary on American society.

Pete said...

Um, is it just my warped imagination, or is the woman on the right in the second photo being orally serviced, right in the middle of Millennium Park?

Anonymous said...

I like the bench. I remember sitting at it 1997 and sketchin the skyline pre-MPark when a student at UIC summer arch program. If anything, its the Park thats the eyesore, rising up above grade 15 feet. A mish mash of frantic shiny objects and landscapes.

Lynn Becker said...

Oh, yeah, why didn't I realize that? Get rid of Cloud Gate, Crown Fountain, Lurie Garden and the Pritzker Pavilion and just fill up Millennium Park with 100-foot-long benches. Brilliant!

Unknown said...

Lynn: I agree - I really dislike how it is sited. The natural inclination after seeing Cloudgate is to head towards the Gehry and ... the table makes this awkward. However, as another poster pointed out, this table has been around since 1997 at least - I think it was done in conjunction with a dance floor from the same material. It wasn't "designed" for this space and I don't know how it ended up here (I doubt Dan Peterman had anything to do with it). It's hyperbole to call it arrogant, in my opinion - it seems pretty typical of the unsophisticated and bureaucratic way the spaces have been modified and managed over the last few years. I wonder if you would like it - or hate it less - if it was moved to the south, east, or north side of Cloudgate.
Meta: I didn't say this work was genius, I said Dan Peterman was. Plus, I was repeating Lynn's language for effect. Regardless of what you think of this piece, it's part of an interesting series of works that the artist did with recycled plastic. Perhaps it just doesn't work outside the gallery without the other work and supporting documents to contextualize it.
Elmhurst: If you buy Laurie Palmer's thesis, it IS a comment on American society:
Lynn again: That's not really what anonymous said and I would agree with them that it is a "mishmash" and we're certainly not the first to make this criticism.

Unknown said...

Lynn - sorry did not read your postscript before I posted. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Lynn - I meant the bench was nice in it's original context. As to the MP itself, its a parking garage roof and as such it will have a 20 - 25 year life then have to be stripped and the roof repaired. By then the shiney metal objects will prob be moved and we'll put something else there. I know it's wildly successful right now this park, but it's kitch to the highest degree. I think a Laurie gardesn approach to the whole site, at grade, would have been much more appropriate.

Lynn Becker said...

Thanks for your follow-up comments.

You have to remember that basically EVERYTHING in Chicago is raised 10 to 15 feet over its natural level. Essentially, it's a city on stilts.

Of course, it's possible to predict the staying power of the artworks at Millennium Park. My bet would be on Cloud Gate for the long term, with Crown Fountain, with its electronics and unchanging roster of faces, the question mark. But I dont' really see either as kitsch, just a very contemporary - and refreshing - approach to park design. (And hopefully, the viaducts will prove more durable than 25 years, but we'll just have to see.)

The idea I keep suggesting is that the park west of Columbus, closest to the Michigan Avenue windowwall and the dense downtown district, is most suitable for a Millennium Park type of development (although, with the Nichols Bridgeway, I would suggest it's pretty much full up with stuff now), and that the park east of Columbus, closest to the lake, should be kept as much as possible in a natural design (i.e. no jagged skylights for a subterranean Children's Museum.)

Matt Maldre said...

Ten years later, and I'm glad that this picnic table remains. Now that I work in the nearby Prudential Center, I eat my lunch at this long picnic table nearly every day.

Many people enjoy this table every day. It's fascinating how the long form influences how people use the table. The side of the table by the Bean is for people who wish to take a break. They often sit facing away from the table, facing toward the bean. The other side of the table tends to be for people who wish to sit down and have lunch.