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