Forty trees along Myrtle Avenue now sport custom-designed tree guards and benches created as part of a collaboration between the Pratt Design Incubator for Sustainable Innovation and the Myrtle Avenue Revitalization Project (MARP), a local non-profit whose board is chaired by Pratt President Thomas F. Schutte. The benches and tree guards were designed to allow local artists to customize the panels that make up three sides of each piece. About half of the winning design submissions for the decorative plasma-cut panels were created by Pratt alumni.
The street furniture project began as part of a junior industrial design studio course taught by Debera Johnson, academic director of sustainability and director of the Pratt Design Incubator for Sustainable Innovation, and Samantha Razook-Murphy, who took on MARP as a client for their street furniture design initiative. The students worked with the local community to gather data and get feedback on the designs of 10 different street furniture elements. At the end of the semester the students presented their ideas to MARP's staff.
MARP decided to focus on further developing the tree guard concepts that had been presented, and worked with the Incubator to refine the designs and create soft and hard prototypes for both the bench and tree guard. Together, they focused on the use of sustainable methods and materials as well as local fabricators where possible. They also created the modular design that was at the heart of MARP's vision, since it allowed for the customization of each tree guard by local artists. “We were looking for ways that Pratt could use its design capabilities to engage with the neighborhood, so this was the perfect project,” says Johnson. “Through the classroom and the Incubator, Pratt wants to have an impact on the economic development of the neighborhood and lend its design expertise to the Myrtle Avenue–area community.
After the overall design was complete and slight modifications made to the prototypes, MARP put out a public call for artists to design the plasma-cut panels, and then fabricated and installed the benches. In early October, MARP will be launching an adopt-a-bench and tree guard program to raise funds for the maintenance and care of each piece and its corresponding street tree.
A reception for the street furniture project will be held on Monday, October 3 at Putnam’s Pub & Cooker, located at 419 Myrtle Avenue, from 6-8 PM.
The Pratt alumni chosen for inclusion in the project were Natalie Apuzzo (B.I.D. ’10); Ellie Balk (M.F.A. '05); Daniel R. deSoto (B.F.A. Comm-D ’04); Designing Hope — Sahar Ghaheri (M.I.D. '11) and Ashley Thorfinnson (M.I.D. '11); Sara Ebert (B.I.D. ’09); Gray Edgerton (B.F.A. ’07); Michael Gerbino (B.F.A. Comm-D ’82), who is also an adjunct faculty member at Pratt; Brekke Guerringue (B.I.D. ’10); Margaret Kim (M.P.S. ’10); Manoela Madera (B.F.A. ’07); Jason Pfaeffle (B.I.D. ’09); and the Incubator design team including Sergio Silva (B.I.D. '05), Matthew Bradshaw (B.I.D. '05), Kris Drury (M.I.D. '09) and Johnson (B.I.D. '86).
Match the tree guard designs below with photos of Myrtle Avenue from MARP's Flickr photostream here.
Text: Abigail Beshkin
Photos: Jonathan Weitz