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