IN: Inspiration

Fresh idea

At the 2017 Lyon City Demain Festival, French designer Jean Couvreur created a public concrete bench to encourage spontaneous gatherings in urban spaces.

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The Lyon City Demain Festival takes place every year in the city of Lyon, France. Its aim is to promote design in the city’s metropolitan area, so that it may become a real design destination.Lyon is a creative hub with a wide range of specialised agencies and training centres offering expertise in science, architectural development, virtual conception and industrial production. Free and open to the public, the Lyon City Demain Festival allows residents to experiment with the proposals made by designers, industrialists and artists, and participate in conferences and workshops carried by innovators in their field.

At this year’s festival, which took place from 15-18 June 2017, designer Jean Couvreur unveiled his white concrete public bench, titled “Banc Frais”, which is inspired by the role fountains played in cities in the past.Fountains provided hygiene and freshness to village squares, in addition to collecting drinking water. They were also spaces around which people gathered. However, Couvreur sought to create a new modern version that is conscious of global warming and the fact that studies show that temperatures could increase by one to two degrees by 2050 – this in particular influenced his decision to build the bench using concrete.

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The bench has a smooth and geometric form that is simple, aesthetically pleasing and minimalistic. It measures just three metres wide and weighs three and a half tonnes. It was designed with a built-in integrated water pump system that allows passers-by to refresh themselves. The water is released by activating a turning wheel, and the liquid then fills a subtle, shallow well on the surface of the bench. The turning wheel releases only enough water to fill this shallow pool. The public can drink from the fountain and/or sit on the dry end of the bench.

Thanks to the porosity of the concrete, the water is able to retain its freshness and evaporate gradually. Couvreur explains: “Like a block cut in the mass, Banc Frais is the pure expression of the material’s capacities: a volume of raw concrete, delicately dug in the centre, as if the water had eroded it. From its centre springs the source of a water which evaporates gradually.”

Like Couvreur’s other projects, his designs are often based on reasoned innovation, where decisions are made in consultation with users and sustainable materials are used.

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