In 2016, as part of the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA)’s ‘Our Favourite Place’ programme to enliven public spaces across Singapore, a competition was organised by NAFA for students and alumni. Entries were meticulously selected and curated by representatives from the National Heritage Board, Land Transport Authority, NAFA, URA, as well as guest judge Mr Tan Kok Hiang. Being an alumnus from NAFA, our entry was selected as one of the 6 benches to be launched on 28 May 2017.
Akin to converging highway lanes, the transitional nature of the site at Bencoolen street encapsulates the fleeting transient movement of strangers converging at a communal space. Familiar Strangers mirrors this gesture as a series of anthropomorphic benches gathering.
Its aesthetic roots are derived from the archetype of the Chinese horse bench which is laid back and communal. Familiar Strangers was designed to evoke a sense of strange familiarity of a recognisable archetype that not only can one associate with but find refreshingly whimsical.
Varying in height, each bench works in tandem to cater to different sitting ergonomics, creating interesting opportunities for people to convene and interact. Although individually distinct, Familiar Strangers gather and function ergonomically as a single entity, extending an invite to strangers and friends to congregate and find rest.
It’s good for art to make us think, to give us a shared experience that creates a dialogue, makes us talk to each other, including strangers.