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 Residence
  4. Albany Avenue Residence
  5. Aporia Records
  6. Asphalt Poetry
  7. – Poem
  8. Baby Point Gardens
  9. Beach Village BIA Master Plan
  10. Beaty Residence
  11. Bennington Heights Garden
  12. Berkeley Street Residence
  13. Bin-Scarth Garden
  14. Blink and you miss it.
  15. – Poem
  16. Blue Note
  17. Booth Avenue Residence
  18. Boustrophedon Garden
  19. Braemore Gardens Residence
  20. Browning Avenue Residence
  21. Brunswick Avenue Residence
  22. Camp Arowhon Offices
  23. Canadian Firefighters Memorial
  24. Channelled Buried Moved Lost
  25. Chocolate Loft
  26. City Instrument
  27. Clarendon Garden
  28. Conversation Piece
  29. Creemore Farm
  30. Danforth Mosaic BIA
  31. Dickson Park Garden
  32. Dilworth Residence
  33. Don Landing Revitalization
  34. Dublin Grounds of Remembrance
  35. Dundas Roncesvalles Peace Garden
  36. Dupont-by-the-Castle BIA
  37. East Point Bird Sanctuary
  38. Elizabeth Fry Society
  39. Ellsworth Residence
  40. Face to Face | Tête à Tête
  41. First Avenue Garden
  42. Foote’s Pond Wood
  43. Forest Hill Village Streetscape
  44. Gaze, Glimpse, Glance
  45. Goldring Landscape
  46. Gormley Garden
  47. Greener P
  48. Greer Road Garden
  49. Greer Road Residence
  50. Guelph Bridge
  51. Head in the Clouds
  52. Junction Craft Brewery
  53. Kelpies Competition
  54. Kew Gardens Streetscape
  55. Le jardin du repos
  56. Lenticular Curtain
  57. Liza’s Garden
  58. Lynwood Garden
  59. Macroscape
  60. Markham Garden One
  61. Markham Street Residence Two
  62. Midtown Yonge Streetscape
  63. Nathan Phillips Square
  64. – Streetscape
  65. – Peace Garden
  66. – Podium Roof Garden
  67. Orchard View Garden
  68. Osgoode Atkinson Green Competition
  69. Owl Cottage
  70. Paperstone Scissors
  71. Peripheral Sitings
  72. Pottery Road Crossing
  73. rare
  74. Ravine Forecourt
  75. Ribbon of the Lower Don
  76. Riverside BIA Master Plan
  77. Roxborough Garden One
  78. Roxborough Garden Two
  79. Sheridan College
  80. – Trafalgar Campus Master Plan
  81. Spadina Quay Wetland
  82. Stratford Market Square Competition
  83. Stratford Patterson Theatre Competition
  84. Superlegible
  85. Sweet Farm
  86. Sweet Farm Pond House
  87. The Meadows Reconsidered
  88. The Red Sash
  89. Thick & Thin
  90. Tipping Point
  91. Tranby Garden
  92. Tree House Residence
  93. UTM Welcome Landscape
  94. Venice Biennale 2012
  95. Vermont Square Park
  96. Vernon Avenue Garden
  97. Walmer Road Residence
  98. Wellesley Cottages Garden
  99. Wells Street Residence
  100. Westminster Residence
  101. With Words as Their Actions
  102. Woodlawn Avenue Residence
  103. Woven Stories
  104. York Park