The Vondelpark is one of the most beloved and well-visited parks in Holland, counting up to ten million visitors per year to its location in central Amsterdam. Since 1996, the park is also listed as a Dutch national heritage site. Originally built on peat, the Vondelpark has gradually been sinking since its inauguration in 1877, and is now lying two meters lower than its surroundings. Together with a new drainage system and special foundations for the trees, the municipality has recently restored much of the original layout of the park, designed in a romantic English landscape style by father and son Zocher. The final step in the renovation program is the replacement of the park furniture, consisting of litter bins, information boards, name plates for roses and special trees, name plates for monuments and art pieces, benches, lighting, drinking fountains, and low fences. Due to their large number, these elements are not only perceived as accents in the park, but play a critical role in the impression of the park as a whole. Having been gradually added over the years, the existing furniture consists of an agglomeration of standard elements from different periods. From a practical standpoint, many of them are outdated, not fulfilling current demands on ergonomics.
The project, who has Johan Selbing as collaborator, takes its inspiration from the original ideas of the Vondelpark, which is designed in a romantic-English landscape style. The park has different characters which together form a whole. This variation is illustrated by the application of different motifs in the frames of the bench, inspired by the flora and fauna of the location. For example, the benches in a more rural part of the park have a heron integrated in the bench frame, while the benches along the different lanes all show the respective tree specie of a specific lane. Keeping in mind the extreme wear and tear of park furniture, the designers wanted to combine the elegance of the ornaments with robust and simple materialization, creating comfortable, functional and sustainable furniture with a long lifespan. Most parts have therefore been designed in cast metal, with a minimum amount of joints and mechanical connections. Both the design and the production process involve handcraft as well as advanced computer modeling and CNC manufacturing, necessary for the aesthetic expression and complexity of the design. All the furniture is coated in a high-quality black powder-coating, relating in this way to the existing decorative fences around the park. The replacement of the existing furniture is a project in progress, which has been partly delayed because of lack of public funding. This means that the majority of the furniture has to be realized in phases with the help of private sponsorship. While being an unusual method of funding for interventions in public space, the process is very much in line with how the Vondelpark came to be, through a phased execution with funding through private sponsorship.