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University City wants help choosing a 'Fresh' seat design

This is a story, all about how, The University City District channeled the soul of the classic TV sitcom, "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," to find the best designed seat for its busiest pedestrian pathways.

"Tree Seats" are benches designed to fit around tree pits. Hommel made the blueprints for two options, both built from a rare, rot-resistant Black Locust wood, which was purchased from Amish carpenters in Lancaster saw mills. Credit: University City District. "Tree Seats" are benches designed to fit around tree pits. Hommel made the blueprints for two options, both built from a rare, rot-resistant Black Locust wood, which was purchased from Amish carpenters in Lancaster saw mills. Credit: University City District.

In University City/benches are raised/to escape the sun/on hot summer days.

This is a story, all about how, the University City District channeled the soul of the classic TV sitcom, "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," to find the best designed seat for its busiest pedestrian pathways.

"We represent West Philadelphia at UCD," said Nate Hommel, the UCD's capital projects manager.

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"Tree Seats" are benches designed to fit around a tree and its pit. Hommel made the blueprints for two options, both built from a rare, rot-resistant Black Locust wood, which was purchased from Amish carpenters in Lancaster saw mills.

And the UCD wants help choosing between the two.

"Until last week they were referred to as, 'Option 1' and 'Option 2,' very boring. So we wanted to spice it up to help get votes," Hommel said.

The first design was constructed with individual slats, and legs to be anchored to the ground. Named "The Carlton," it is solid, safe, clean, simple, and fits right in. "And it won't offend anyone," Hommel said. Something "You can bring home to your father."

The second design was built with long slabs, and is filled with gravel and rocks to keep it grounded. Named "The Will," it's more stylish and modern. "It's a little more feisty, it sticks out a little more," he said. "It pushes the envelope a little bit."

Both are available for testing outside the UCD's office at 3940 Chestnut. The district received a $3,900 grant from the city for the project, and Hommel said UCD is responsible for repairs. Both benches are made with replaceable components for easy maintenance, he said.

When the winner is chosen three more versions of the winning design will be built and spread out to key spots around the neighborhood.

The homeless


No deterrents have been built into the seats to prevent homeless people from turning a bench into a bed.

"That's always a challenge for public-space design," Hommel said. "We didn't put any direct deterrents into it. I generally don't believe in that, and I think that anything that has a lot of foot traffic … tends not to be a problem."

"And if it's an issue we always have our safety ambassadors that can address those situations," he added.

Uncle Phil option


While designers typically produce three potential options to choose from, UCD stuck with just two.

But it doesn't hurt to wonder what characteristics Hommel could have borrowed from other stars of the hit 90s sitcom to implement in a potential third option's design.

Such as Uncle Phil.

Wide seats?

"Maybe with a crazy sweater a well-trimmed beard." Hommel said.

Why not Jazzy Jeff? He's actually born and raised in West Philadelphia.

"I don't think we have anything quite crazy enough to justify being called ' The Jazz,'" he deadpanned.

How to vote


Vote in-person: Monday through Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Social media: Twitter or Facebook use the hashtag #TreeSeats.

Follow Tommy Rowan on Twitter: @tommyrowan

 
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