Jeppe Hein modified bench two seater

We are all familiar with the public bench as a conventional type – some horizontal slats for sitting on, some more for leaning against, and four legs to hold up all of the above.

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Jeppe Hein bench kids playing
Jeppe Hein modified bench zig zag

Jeppe Hein takes this convention and adds a series of twists, turns and inversions to create something new and interactive that plays on our sense of the familiar as well as our curiosity about the exotic.

Jeppe Hein modified bench upside down

Some encourage playful interaction from children, while others encourage people to sit and face one another, communicating rather than sitting in silent parallel. Still others are changed around apparently just for fun, or to let people take a nap in public – something normally prohibited and actively designed against when it comes to city benches. What the disparate pieces share is a childlike intuition that little changes can make a big difference in the urban landscape.

Jeppe Hein modified bench swirl

“Out of investigating architecture, communication, and social behavior in the urban space, a series of bench designs was born under the common title Modified Social Benches. The bench designs borrow their basic form from the ubiquitous park or garden bench, but are altered to various degrees to make the act of sitting a conscious physical endeavor.”

“With their modifications, the benches transform their surroundings into places of activity rather than rest and solitude; they foster exchange between the users and the passers-by, thus lending the work a social quality. Due to their alterations, the benches end up somewhere between a dysfunctional object and a functional piece of furniture, and therefore demonstrate the contradiction between artwork and functional object.”

Jeppe Hein bench in the woods

“In my view, the concept of sculpture is closely linked to communication. Rather than passive perception and theoretical reflection, the visitor’s direct and physical experiences are more important to me,” Hein says in an interview with Thejas Jagannath. “A level of immediate perception is only achieved with an artwork that the viewer is directly involved with. Thus interaction is a distinctive element of my artwork and the viewer plays a vital role.”