Design at Fairchild: Sitting Naturally

This year as part of Design/Miami, The Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden asked Cristina Grajales Gallery to commission seven of her brightest design stars to create site specific outdoor furniture (mostly benches) for its inaugural design initiative. I toured the gardens with Cristina and two of her artists, Sebastian Errazuriz and Sam Baron, a group of design admirers, and Nannette Zapata and Paula Fernandez de los Muros of the Fairchild and it was one of the major high points of the fair. We started the tour in the newly opened Butterfly Conservatory which is truly magical. We continued by tram and the first stop was Sebastian Errazuriz’s “Dawn Before Time Bench”. Using wood, iron and crystal, Errazuriz created a bench that resembles a traditional garden bench but has incorporated his trademark sense of humor and romance with the addition of a crystal chandelier that has been anchored to the bench and able to withstand the outdoor elements. Next up was Sam Baron’s “La Marie-Lou” and “La Georgette” benches. Made of white lacquered metal and ceramic, they both invite the user to add their own portion of the garden into one of the planters integrated into the design and the La Georgette offers shade with a movable umbrella as well.

Dawn Before Time Bench by Sebastian Errazuriz
La Marie-Lou Bench by Sam Baron in lacquered metal wood and ceramic
La Georgette Bench by Sam Baron

Around the bend seeing rare palms that are nearing extinction John Paul Philippe’s “Bird Perch Benches” elegantly provide a place for the native birds of the garden to sit upon steel perches that become part of the frame that supports the generous mahogany platforms. Michele Oka Doner used Australian Pine to create her organic “Chitra Benches” that blend harmoniously into the environment.

Bird Perch Benches by John Paul Philippe
Detail of Bird Perch Bench by John Paul Philippe
Chitra Bench by Michele Oka Doner

Gael Appler crafted Honduran Mahogany into a slatted “Salt Point Bench” that is molded to comfort sitting in the garden as well as the “Salt Point Table”. Pedro Barrail used steel and marble to create his animated “Keep Walking Benches” and burned-in wood etching technique used by the the Pai-Tavytera Amazonian tribe in the “Melancholia Stool”. Both of Barrail’s designs were situated beneath an enormous tree that Jorge Pardo has illuminated with hundreds of red orange and white powder coated lanterns reminiscent of blooming flowers. Upon our return to the pavilion Sebastian Errazuriz’s second design “The Guardian Bench” was nestled at the edge of the rainforest along the south edge of the Bailey Palm Glade, one of the most photographed areas of the gardens. Again Sebastian cleverly referenced past civilizations being overturned, placing two busts of Caesar beneath a marble plinth.

Salt Point Bench (2) and Salt Point Table by Gael Appler
Melancholia Stool and Keep Walking Bench by Pedro Barrail
Detail of Keep Walking Bench in marble by Pedro Barrail
Garden Lights by Jorge Pardo
Detail of Jorge Pardo’s Garden Lights

We ended our tour with Christophe Come’s Infinity and Post Benches, both made of mahogany and iron using techniques he has employed in his furniture designs in Paris. All of these works will remain on view at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden through May 31, 2013.

Detail of Christophe Come’s Infinity Bench

The “Sitting Naturally” works are available through Cristina Grajales Gallery in limited editions.

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