When in 2010 I was shortlisted for a public seating commission in Scotland, and arrived in Dunfermline for the interview, I was surprised to find my old bodging pal William Warren was also a candidate. In the end we both got the job, and collaborated on the design. The 'Fife bench' was commissioned by Kingdom Housing Association and Creative Scotland, and eighteen benches were to be designed, manufactured, and sited around the ancient kingdom of Fife.
After making a few trips up to Fife to investigate local manufacturing, we settled on the idea of the bench as a colourful picnic rug - 'whipped up by a gentle breeze from the Firth of Forth' (as William put it), and translated into metal for permanence. Of course this gave us the excuse to do what we really wanted at the outset, which was to make something Tartan. I made a sketch of a whipped-up blanket which appeased the local dissenters, William devised a very clever way of perforating steel sheet to give the effect of a weave (or 'sett' as the sequence of repetition is called) with the contrasting colour of the framework showing through, and jointly we made a mock-up of the bench shape in mdf to get it as comfortable as we could make it.
Unable to find a metal bench manufacturer in Fife, we came across a company called Envirovent who manufacture ventilation systems, and whose owner Eddie Syczynski was willing to make the benches. Eddie was a pleasure to work with, solved all the production problems, and soon we had a prototype (below) for people to try out.
I chose a range of twelve colours from which local residents were invited to choose two for the frame and seat of the bench in their area, and the metalwork was sent to to be powder-coated. The finished benches were then installed at eighteen locations by Fife Council's Skills and Development Centre, which provides training opportunities for people wishing to develop their skills in the construction industry.
Some benches have views of the Firth of Forth, another has a view of a traffic roundabout, but all have been well received by the locals. At Buckhaven, residents' group CLEAR described the benches as 'a real asset', which is possibly about as good as you can get.
A PDF showing the Fife Bench Trail can be downloaded at :