Let us cross a large modern capital with our ears more sensitive than our eyes. Luigi Russolo
For the 2003 Milan Triennale, Canada participated with its exhibition Aurora Canadese – New Dawn: Canadian Designers in Milan. The Exhibition was a juried competition for objects of sound, light, and colour tracing an itinerary throughout Milan.

Eight city itineraries have been mapped to make a sound and light procession that converges in the heart of Milano: the Piazza del Duomo. The itineraries are marked by a sequence of musical benches that generate sound and project light, unexpectedly triggered by the act of sitting. At once practical – Milano really needs more places to sit – and ritualistic, the bench itinerary adds a new layer of interaction within the itinerary of attractions that form the cultural map of the city. The bench engages the body directly, encouraging lingering: the time to catch the aural and visual minutiae of the city culture.

Pipe Organ Bench (exploded view)
Pipe Organ Bench (exploded view)

The bench form comprises five parts:

Sitter – A sitter is necessary for the action of the bench and the activation of the itinerary.

Sound Generator – The act of sitting cocks a hammer or compresses a music generator that acts when the sitter gets up. Benches along an itinerary share the musical families of idiophone, membranophone, metallophone, aerophone, and chordophone each specifically chosen for the pace and character of the route, their sounds in counterpoint to the din of the city. Each family is represented at the Duomo.

Slipcover – A thick rectangular cast bronze carapace conceals the inner workings of the bench and is adapted to suit each musical family – e.g. perforations for aerophones, slits for bells. The slipcover compresses when sat upon, destablizing the monumentality of the material. The bronze simultaneously patinas in the city air, and polishes with use.

Light Carpet – At night, the bench is a beacon with intense light creating a precise rectangular pool of light on the ground – spotlighting a stage for activity. The light is intensified yet interrupted by the presence of sitters, whose feet can make the light dance. The light visually levitates the bronze.

Map cube – A glass cube set in the pavement glows day and night marking the specific spot within the city instrument.

In the symphony of the city, all sitters are connected. It’s Saturday night; let’s go play the city.

Sonic Plaza
Sonic Plaza
Light
Light
Sound
Sound
Bench typologies
Bench typologies: Accordian, Cello, Cowbells, Garden Rain, Gong, Music Box, Piano wire, Pump Organ, Steel Drum, Temple Bell, Thundersheet, Tinkle, Trumpet, Woodblock, Xylophone,
Milan Bench Organ

project index

  1. A Conversation of Views
  2. Admiral Road Garden
  3. Airdrie Road Garden
  4. Airdrie Road Residence
  5. Albany Avenue Residence
  6. Alexandra Park
  7. Aporia Records
  8. Asphalt Poetry
  9. – Poem
  10. Baby Point Gardens
  11. Beach Garden
  12. Beach Village BIA Master Plan
  13. Beaty Residence
  14. Bennington Heights Garden
  15. Berkeley Street Residence
  16. Bin-Scarth Garden
  17. Blink and you miss it.
  18. – Poem
  19. Bloor St. Apartment
  20. Blue Note
  21. Booth Avenue Residence
  22. Boustrophedon Garden
  23. Braemore Gardens Residence
  24. Browning Avenue Residence
  25. Brunswick Avenue Residence
  26. Camp Arowhon Offices
  27. Canadian Firefighters Memorial
  28. Channelled Buried Moved Lost
  29. Chocolate Loft
  30. City Instrument
  31. Clarendon Garden
  32. Conversation Piece
  33. Creemore Farm
  34. Danforth Mosaic BIA Master Plan
  35. Dickson Park Garden
  36. Dilworth Residence
  37. Don Landing Revitalization
  38. Dublin Grounds of Remembrance
  39. Dundas Roncesvalles Peace Garden
  40. Dupont-by-the-Castle BIA
  41. East Point Bird Sanctuary
  42. Eglinton Ave Forecourt
  43. Eglinton Park Master Plan
  44. Elizabeth Fry Society
  45. Ellsworth Residence
  46. Face to Face | Tête à Tête
  47. First Avenue Garden
  48. First Avenue Residence
  49. Flyover Canada
  50. Foote’s Pond Wood
  51. Forest Hill Village Streetscape
  52. Gaze, Glimpse, Glance
  53. Goldring Landscape, University of Toronto
  54. Gormley Garden
  55. Governor's Bridge Lookout
  56. Greener P
  57. Greer Road Garden
  58. Greer Road Residence
  59. Guelph Bridge
  60. Head in the Clouds
  61. Helena Ave Residence 4
  62. Junction Craft Brewery
  63. Kelpies Competition
  64. Kew Gardens Streetscape
  65. Kipling & Islington Developments
  66. Le jardin du repos
  67. Lenticular Curtain
  68. Leslie Slip Lookout Park
  69. Liberty Village Parkettes
  70. Liza’s Garden
  71. Lynwood Garden
  72. Macroscape
  73. Markham Garden One
  74. Markham Street Residence Two
  75. Midtown Yonge Streetscape
  76. Mulock Park
  77. Nathan Phillips Square
  78. – Streetscape
  79. – Peace Garden
  80. – Podium Roof Garden
  81. Orchard View Garden
  82. Osgoode Atkinson Green Competition
  83. Owl Cottage
  84. Paperstone Scissors
  85. Peripheral Sitings
  86. Pottery Road Crossing
  87. rare
  88. Ravine Forecourt
  89. Ribbon of the Lower Don
  90. Riverside BIA Master Plan
  91. Roxborough Garden One
  92. Roxborough Garden Two
  93. Ryerson Centre for Urban Innovation
  94. Ryerson University Science Building
  95. Schulich School of Business
  96. Sheridan College
  97. – Trafalgar Campus Master Plan
  98. Spadina Quay Wetland
  99. St. Anne's Road Garden
  100. Stratford Market Square Competition
  101. Stratford Patterson Theatre Competition
  102. Superkids Dental
  103. Superlegible
  104. Sweet Farm
  105. Sweet Farm Pond House
  106. Swift Medical Offices
  107. The Meadows Reconsidered
  108. The Red Sash
  109. Thick & Thin
  110. Tipping Point
  111. Tranby Garden
  112. Tree House Residence
  113. UBC Okanagan – The Commons
  114. UHN Tunnels
  115. University of Toronto Mississauga Welcome Centre
  116. Venice Biennale 2012
  117. Vermont Square Park
  118. Vernon Avenue Garden
  119. Walk the Walk
  120. Walmer Road Residence
  121. Welland Canal Fallen Workers Memorial
  122. Wellesley Cottages Garden
  123. Wells Street Residence
  124. Westminster Residence
  125. With Words as Their Actions
  126. Woodlawn Avenue Residence
  127. Woven Stories
  128. York Park