Proud memories of the past
As part of the 2014/2016 Harbour Arm refurbishment, over thirty wooden benches were specially made for the space, created from the tropical hardwood fenders that once served as buffers between ships and the harbour wall.
Renowned furniture designer Matthew Burt selected suitable pieces from the salvaged greenheart wood. These were cut to length and sanded into smooth blocks. Old scars were left intact to become unique markings, proud memories of the past; rotted holes were filled with clear boat-builders’ resin allowing literal glimpses into the past. Burt says he wanted the benches to ‘tell their story’ and be ‘seemingly simple whilst sensually sculptural’. Rich patterns of the tight grain that has been washed over and weathered by thousands of tides are all the decoration needed.
Bench surfaces are gently curved so that the rain runs off, but also so that they are equally comfortable to sit on from either side. The strength of the greenheart wood means it does not need an under frame and can be supported on simple metal frames that follow the dovetail shape of the wooden block.
Original public furniture
Most of the benches are set out along the Harbour Arm so people can rest, eat food bought at the many kiosks, or enjoy the view of the coast and cliffs. One group of four benches, however, can be found on the upper walkway, arranged in a conversational circle. The octagonal platform on which they sit marks the base of the timber hut and mast where flags were once raised to signal to ships.
Matthew Burt is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and of the Society of Designer Craftsmen. He specialises in using sustainably sourced English woods; each of his works takes its cue from the unique architectural context of its location, and is designed to be strong enough for heavy usage, to withstand the forces of nature, and to complement the local environment while representing an original and innovative approach to public furniture.