“Intricate” and “challenging” are two words used to describe the creation of the custom benches dotting the public area of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s (CHOP) Roberts Center for Pediatric Research Schuylkill Avenue campus. The benches were conceptualized by Cooper Robertson & Partners, the project’s master planner, and brought to life through a collaboration between landscape architecture firm Ground Reconsidered and Landscape Forms’ Studio 431.
“We received a great vision from Cooper Robertson,” says Ground Reconsidered Principal Karen Skafte. “They wanted the campus that connected Schuylkill Avenue to the Schuylkill River Trail to express both the rectilinear grid of the city and the curvilinear nature of the river. It was critical that the benches move, bend, and grow like the river, which brought us to the challenge of how to make them.”
Ground Reconsidered’s Justin DiPietro felt that Landscape Forms was “one of the few companies that could execute the benches at the scale, schedule, and level of quality we were looking at.” Once Landscape Forms was selected, Studio 431 and Ground Reconsidered worked collaboratively on the engineering, manufacturing, and installation of the wood benches over precast concrete bases.
“Studio 431 provided input that ultimately led to a better product,” says DiPietro. “A successful installation lies in details such as how to conceal connections or the exact spacing between wood slats. The Landscape Forms team’s thoughts on the interface of wood, particularly on the bullnose pieces where two slats are held off of each other ever so slightly, resulted in a nice shadow line that emphasizes the movement and expressive nature of the benches.”
Attention to detail was demonstrated in real-time when DiPietro traveled to Michigan to meet with the Studio 431 team. “When I saw the shop, the process, and understood the culture, it all made sense to me. I had imagined a more automated process, but I saw folks employing their craft by hand. The attention to detail was evident.”
Skafte was also impressed by the detailed attention given to each step of the engineering and manufacturing process. “One of the best things about the bench design is its very subtle change in height along the benches. At one point, the bench back diminishes to nothing. It seemed impossible to achieve that subtlety, but Landscape Forms did it beautifully. The slope is so smooth and consistent as each piece steps down a fraction of an inch.” In Skafte’s view, hitting a detail like that is amazing. “It’s the fact that they did it. The slats could have been installed as flat pieces of wood, but Landscape Forms didn’t skimp; they stayed true to that detail.”