Following a spate of horrific vehicle-related terror incidents around the world in recent years, there has been a growing effort to find effective yet subtle ways to protect pedestrians in busy areas. In London, following the London Bridge attack in 2017, conspicuous metal and concrete barriers were installed on the city’s main bridges. Though effective, they are not the most elegant solution and have drawn their fair share of criticism. In New York City’s Times Square, designer Joe Doucet recently introduced an alternative protective barrier, that blends into the urban setting.
The NY-based designer has created a 3D printed concrete bench which simultaneously acts as a traffic barrier to protect pedestrians from traffic accidents and deliberate vehicle attacks. The innovative 3D printed bench, called Rely, was debuted in Times Square this month as part of the NYCxDesign festival 2019.
Rely is constructed from a series of 3D printed concrete benches which are assembled by steel rods. The benches, which weigh over one ton, are designed to skid when they are hit, forming a barrier and preventing vehicles to plow into busy areas.
Unlike many other barriers in use today which are purely functional and often not very nice to look at, the Rely bench puts an emphasis on aesthetics. The bench-barrier hybrid is a subtle piece of the urban landscape, contributing to pedestrian areas rather than acting as a blatant reminder that people are vulnerable to passing vehicles.
As Doucet writes on his website: “Traditional concrete barriers meant to provide safety from vehicles tend to be brutalist, intrusive and function as an ugly reminder that we are not safe in large congregations. Rely adopts a different, humanist approach, offering alternate function as seating when not performing protective duties, and enhancing its surroundings with beauty rather than constant reminders of aggression.”
The Rely Bench was produced in cooperation with UrbaStyle, a specialist in concrete street furniture. Doucet and the company worked together to create the protective bench using an extrusion construction 3D printer. Notable about the bench’s design is its modular triangular structure, which allows for pieces to be stacked in endless ways.
The novel 3D printing method used, called “Digital Extrusion,” was developed by UrbaStyle in collaboration with Concrenetics, Autodesk, ABB and Cementir Group. Victoria Milne and ¢6 Design also helped to realize the project.