Green Schoolyards, San Francisco, CA

VanMechelen Architects

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Working with technology developed by NASA for a station on the moon, we built gravel bag benches as part of two Greening Schoolyards Conferences in San Francisco..  Inexpensive polyethylene bags are filled with local sand, stacked into shapes designed by the students and/ or teachers, and then covered with chicken wire and stucco.  Tiles, broken plates, or other salvaged objects can be pressed into the wet stucco to create additional designs.

At Ulloa Elementary School (above), students asked for the bench in their garden to be shaped like a shark, which is also the school mascot.  Working with 8 teachers who had never done construction, we excavated, designed, built and finished a 16 foot long bench in one day, complete with scary teeth set in salvaged tile.

At John Muir Elementary (left) the narrow site, need for an accessible path, and desire to have two separate teaching areas inspired the design for a bench worm, which slides underground to create two separate forms.  This was also built in one day with teacher volunteers.

These benches are durable, maintenance-free, and only cost less than $350.