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.
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.