Hired to develop an art program for the recently opened MGM Springfield Resort and Casino in Springfield, Massachusetts, art consultancy RAREculture (HOK, Rockwell Group, and Daroff Design are clients) took an unusual approach to an installation.
“The client wanted a piece that had movement, and was designed by an artist who understood the concept of community,” says RAREculture CEO Susan Kroll. The consultancy interpreted that request to be an installation that would also provide seating in the hotel’s courtyard to beckon, engage and encourage visitors to socialize at the resort. Kroll’s team commissioned Danish artist Jeppe Hein to design and fabricate the piece. “We’ve been following Jeppe and love all the iterations of his work. It’s ever evolving and seems to always be at the forefront of what people are hoping to see in the art world.”
The result of collaborating with Hein is an unusual piece of site furniture, which serves a tripartite function as seating, play structure, and public art all rolled into a park bench.
Dubbed the “Bench of Expectation,” the installation also references the whimsy of one of Springfield’s favorite sons: Theodor Seuss Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss). The bench’s sculptural form—made up of elongated winding forms, sharp bends, and loops—recalls the famous imaginary landscapes created by the children’s book author and illustrator.
Constructed from aluminum, the bench's long, flat, and undulating segments twist and turn to accommodate conventional sitting in some spots, while also encouraging reclining and play in others. Its ribbon-like shape occupies approximately 650 square feet. According to Kroll, Hein used its playful Seuss-inspired elements to build ease between strangers and create space in which they can communicate.
Amid the resort’s 760,000 square feet, the bench, a permanent installation, stands out. Hein’s first public art in the U.S., it has already become one of MGM Springfield’s most recognizable features, adding wayfinding to its list of functions. “It is a visual anchor as well as an interactive focal point and meeting place,” says RAREculture vice president Elle Lachow ticking off the attributes of Hein’s creation. As Dr. Seuss’s Cat in the Hat character might say, “It is fun to have fun, but you have to know how.”
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