DESIGN: Loafing at the Plaza at Harvard University


The Plaza at Harvard University, designed by Stoss Landscape Urbanism, includes new sculptural benches that are a slice of design heaven. The Plaza is a multi-functional space for Harvard students, and employees, as well as visitors and the community. The benches, designed by Stoss and fabricated by Mark Richey Woodworking, are a collection of 17 custom-designed, wooden slatted seats – some with no backs and a low seat height, and others that are set higher with full seat backs.


The design team produced a 3D model for each of the 17 benches. The benches were manufactured based on CAD drawings, after which they developed accurate models that could be extrapolated for the fabrication process. Using a 5-axis CNC mill, Mark Richey Woodworking fabricated the ribs, which have parallel reveals. The pieces were joined with mitered corners, and held together with mortise and tenon and epoxy. The “bread slices,” as the ribs that make up the benches are known, are supported by a metal substructure. Removable metal caps on the ends, the least developed design element, hide the LED lighting equipment, power, and data hookups, but failed to add a final note in the aesthetics deparment.


The benches can be re-configured for events and any changes in programming of the Plaza.


LED lights beneath the benches add interest to the design and added functionality. The lighting aims to increase comfort, thereby inviting people to use the space hours after the sun has set.

Check out the The Plaza at Harvard University live web cam to see the benches in action here.

All photos by Stoss Landscape Urbanism.

You can find out more about the project here.