Living Bench at Physics Building

On a cold afternoon in early January, the SWF team visited The Smart Museum of Art to [de]construct the Radical [Re]Constructions exhibit. Most of the exhibit returned to The Commons for a new project, the [Re]Construction House, but the bench that was the focal point of the exhibit, found a home in the courtyard outside the University of Chicago’s Physics Building.

Read on to learn more about the significance of the Living Bench’s new home outside the Physics Building.


In the heart of The Commons, sit two large Living Benches that the SWF team designed and built in 2017. The benches provide a multifunctional space: a playground for children, a picnic space for visitors, a display table for farmers’ markets, and more. A new Living Bench, inspired by the originals at The Commons, was designed and built as part of the Radical [Re]Constructions exhibit at The Smart Museum of Art (Smart). The Living Bench became a focal point of the exhibit, bringing the museum’s threshold to life during meetings, tours, large and small events, Family Days, and workshops.

When the installation was [de]constructed in early January, SWF and Smart found a new home for the piece at the University of Chicago’s Physics Building. On January 17, the SWF team joined over 40 students, faculty, and staff from the Physics Department and Smart Museum in the Physics Building for the announcement of the new living bench installation. Emmanuel Pratt, SWF Executive Director, Michael Christiano, Deputy Director and Curator of Public Practice at Smart, and Young-Kee Kim, Louis Block Distinguished Service Professor and Chair of the Physics Department, spoke about the significance of this new relationship.

Physics is one of the oldest fields of science that seeks to understand the universe, time, space, movement, energy, and force. It is fitting that the living bench found a home in the courtyard of the physics building as it provides a space for students, faculty, and visitors to have conversations about the way time, space, and energy intersect with this ever changing Living Bench. The SWF team looks forward to staying connected with students and faculty in the Physics Department in the spring and summer.

Courtney Hug