The Barry Waterfront development in the Vale of Glamorgan, Wales, might be brand new but a series of colourful benches reaches back into the history of the place to tell stories about the area’s longtime residents.
The Barry Benches were designed by Aberrant Architecture (the firm was commissioned by Studio Response on behalf of the developers as well as Vale of Glamorgan Council Per Cent for Public Art Scheme) but their forms and colours were inspired by the memories of multiple stakeholders during sessions of community engagement. Among those who workshopped the main themes were students of Ysgol St Baruc Primary School, the residents at Golau Caredig Independent Residential Living and visitors of all ages to The Annual Scout & Guide Fete.
Their reminiscences were manifold. And they speak to the history of the site’s storied docks. In the midst of the Second World War, the U.S. Army set up a camp for troops servicing the dock – hence, one of the benches, called G.I. Barry is shaped like a military Jeep.
Another workshop participant recalled how, as a child, they would go to the docks to receive bananas imported from the West Indies. They remember “eating fresh bananas…along with milk and sugar” straight off the boats of the Geest company, which operated on the docks from the 1950s to the 1980s. The memory was transmogrified into the Barry Banana bench.
The Barry Scrapyard bench, meantime, honours the scrapyard near the site where many obsolete railway wagons were taken apart. And the Barry Boom, not yet installed on the boardwalk, is a ship-like bench that recalls the area’s 19th century history as one of the largest industrial ports in the world.
Made with structures of sheet metal, the benches are surfaced in stained accoya timber, a warm material that invites residents – including the participants in the workshops that gave the benches their forms and meanings – to linger.
Aberrant Architecture collaborates with the residents of a waterfront Welsh community on the colourful Barry Benches.