“Bathing” in Public, Communing with the River

If you’re heading to (or live in) Portland, check out our innovative, weird and amphibious seating that’s won the People’s Choice Award in the Design Museum Portland’s Street Seat Competition. 

The competition asked 200 international teams to “design a sustainable, unique, aesthetically pleasing public bench that embraces and enhances the vibrancy of downtown Portland.” People’s choice is the award for seating that was the most photographed and shared on social media. 

The seat, called Tub(time), is a repurposed 1920s cast iron, claw-foot bathtub. “We got it from Urban Ore, a salvage place in Berkeley, California,” explains Sahela Klob, one of the MIG designers. 

“We wanted to celebrate the Willamette River that flows through Portland and make people think about water systems, sustainability, climate change and flooding. And do it using something that everyone is familiar with. So we thought of a bathtub because when you turn the tap, you have endless water—we could use the tub to re-associate how we use water and where it comes from. The tub is a metaphor for the watershed; it holds and retains water and then drains water that goes somewhere else.”

The team cut one side of the tub out and layered in plywood sections showing the geomorphology of the area, both the topography of the land and the bathymetry of the river. They then poured in layers of colored resin, representing water. The juxtaposition of Portland’s contrasting characteristics within the urban fabric on either side of the sinuous Willamette River illustrate the amphibious nature of the region and allow the user to feel submerged within it.

The resin pour “overflows” the Willamette’s banks, showing urban flooding. “It’s happened many times in Portland and as the City continues to grow and rain continues to increase, there will be more flooding,” Sahela says. 

The Tub(time) seat will be on display on SW Salmon Street at SW 1st Street by the World Trade Center,  through February 28, 2019