The City of Melbourne’s Rod Seat emerged from the challenge of designing a new suite of street furniture for Melbourne’s busy central city Bourke Street Mall in time for the Commonwealth Games in 2006.
The mall is a pedestrianised section of road in the heart of Melbourne’s most popular shopping precinct. One of the city’s busiest tram routes runs down the centre of the mall, which is lined with historic buildings on one side and a mix of modern and mid-century buildings on the other. The combination of trams and large volumes of people makes it a very active and dynamic urban space, presenting some real challenges in terms the location and design of street furniture for the space.
One of the major challenges was to ensure any new suite of furniture did not clutter such a heavily trafficked space, but still provided enough seating to accommodate the large numbers of pedestrians and visitors, while improving the quality and versatility of street furniture for a growing city.
Results of a spatial survey suggested both long and short seats were needed, as well as flexibility to suit the needs of busy pedestrians, tired shoppers, lunchtime crowds and so on.
A number of seating options were designed, including the Rod Seat, which quickly became the favourite as its potential was realised. The Rod Seat can be long, short, curved or turned into a wave shape. To date the Rod Seat has been made into five variations:
• single upright swivel seats
• long upright straight seats
• short bench seats
• curved bench seats
• curved half-bench, half-upright seats.
Fabricated from stainless steel rods, the seats have a sleek and timeless look which is easily maintained with a weekly high pressure clean to obtain a factory finish look with minimal effort. Their polished finish also provides a continuous, high-quality presentation for the public domain, elevating the tenor of the streetscape of the city.
The circular shape of each individual rod also has the benefit of its inherent water shedding profile. When it rains, any water immediately runs down the side of the rods and drips away from the lowest point. This prevents water from pooling on any part of the seats, which means the public can sit and the Rod Seats very shortly after rain, without getting wet.
Another bonus of the stainless steel rod is the durability of the product. Located outdoors in the public domain the seats are vulnerable to vandalism and the elements, but the strength and robust composition of the design and the stainless steel fabric ensure the seats have a long life-span and are easily able to weather the harsh environment that accompanies their open, urban position.