Recap: First Street Green’s NYChair Event

Posted on: July 17th, 2012 at 10:24 am by and

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Speaker Evan Bennett, discussing his outdoor designs for Nostrand Avenue. Credit: David Bergman

For an event about designing chairs for parks, we didn’t get to sit much. But that was our own fault because we were popping in and out of the workshops. Other, more devoted, attendees sat on oddly comfortable tubing mats, made earlier in the day, while brainstorming designs for flexible seating for First Park.

The all-day event this past Saturday was the NYChair Charrette, hosted by First Street Green, whose mission is to support events at the new Art Park at 33 East 1st Street, along with ExpoTENtial and desigNYC. (What is it with mixed upper and lower case names these days?)

In the morning, a group composed mainly of event organizers Silva Ajemian and Jorge Prado and architecture students of theirs from NJIT, created mats starting with that ubiquitous orange plastic mesh you see on construction sites and sometimes on beaches for snow fencing. Flexible foam pipe insulation was then woven through the mesh, geometrically at first and then more and more free form as the exercise proceeded. As planned, the mats were then used for seating atop the brick pavers for the second half of the event, with adults and children alike sprawled over them. (A couple of donated benches were available for the more senior participants.) The mats will now be stored at the park for use in upcoming events.

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Participants sitting on tubing mats made in earlier session. Credit: David Bergman

An impressive roster of experts introduced the second exercise, the actual charrette. A charrette, lest you think we casually toss around insider terms, is a short but intense participatory design session in which groups collectively come up with ideas and solutions. This one’s goal was to envision “the NYChair of tomorrow,” outdoor seating for the newly opened section of First Park and perhaps as a prototype for other parks. Short intros were given by Prado and Ajemian along with Laetitia Wolff from desigNYC. Following that, representatives from Parks and Recreation, NYC DOT, and architecture firms involved in other outdoor furniture projects spoke about the goals of the charrette. Several of them doubled as jurors for the about-to-be-conceived designs.

Materials reuse and invention were present everywhere as an impromptu awning, made of an old tarp and salvaged wood, was constructed at the last minute to make the Powerpoint images slightly more viewable in the overcast but bright daylight.

The mats were then dragged over to low Japanese-style plywood work surfaces where participants, including many local residents, some with children accompanying them, formed four teams to sketch out ideas.

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Participants sketching ideas during the charrette portion of the event. Credit: David Bergman

First Street Green says the resulting sketches will be posted on their website, at which point the public can vote on their favorites. The winner will be announced on August 15th.

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A sampling of the ideas. Credit: David Bergman

Written by David Bergman with contributions by Lori Greenberg

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