No doubt you’ve heard of “living roofs,” those high-rise mini eco-systems that facilitate an attractive expanse of groundcover as a building’s capstone rather than the usual horrific agglomeration of concrete and asphalt. What if—goes my imagined re-creation of designer Will Oltman’s thought process—one applied a similar technology to furniture? The result would undoubtedly be Oltman’s “Live Seating,” “a three dimensional live sculpture providing a temporary and useful park environment to beautify vacant lots and building sites.”
Live Seating. Designed by Will Oltman for 2B Studio.
Lately familiar to readers for his Tolima and Isaac Chairs, Oltman, along with 2B Studio cohort Bruce Sienkowski, designed Live Seating to be a quick “park-ification”—for lack of a better term—of vacant or “transitioning” city lots. The natural outdoor furnishings would eliminate an eyesore while drawing eyes (and hopefully dollars) towards the lot in question.
In a nutshell, the Living Chair (as well as Bench, Stool, Lounge, or Table) is created by giving form to a formless heap of soil. Oltman achieves this metamorphosis via a welded wire mesh understructure made of 2” x 2” Cor-Ten steel. After the shape is achieved and the dirt is surrounded, he wraps the whole affair with a biodegradable mesh (very like the erosion control/re-seeding set-ups one often sees along interstates). Add grass seed, sod, or a hearty fast-growing ground cover, then top with a compression molded-100% recycled-pc/abs-based cushion, and let nature do the rest.
The concept promises rapid beautification with minimal installation costs. And once the lot turns, Live Seating can be easily dismantled—the seating material can be re-purposed and so can the foliage. Perhaps as landscaping on the very same site!
Just as with living roofs, Live Seating is rife with potential permutations. My first thought, in fact, is that it could virtually supplant all that petro-based junk we haul out of our garages every Spring (or, even worse, trot off to Wal-Mart to procure). Since the shape and scope of the pieces are limited only by the ability to manipulate and contain the soil, why not create an entire dining and lounging ensemble beneath the shady bowers of public parks and private yards the country over? I also see an unending canvas of aesthetic possiblity—armchairs alive with the magenta blooms of Iceplant, luxurious divans carpeted in fragrant tufts of Wooly Thyme, a table alive with Sage and Peppermint. What better metaphor for organic gardening than “straight from the table to… the table?!”