Eric O'Malley honors Gene Szymczak

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Mark Hertzberg
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Eric O'Malley honors Gene Szymczak

Post by Mark Hertzberg »

I have posted photos of this morning's dedication of the memorial bench designed by Eric O’Malley to www.wrightinracine.com

It is a striking design.
Mark Hertzberg

SDR
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Post by SDR »

Thanks, Mark. Tell Eric when you see him that his bench design is dandy -- an homage both the Mr Szymczak and to Mr Wright, evoking for instance the L-shaped Ravine Bluff markers.

Did you say this memorial is placed across the street from the Hardy house ? Perhaps a photo showing the two structures in relation to each other would be in order ?

SDR

Mark Hertzberg
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Post by Mark Hertzberg »

I wasn't clear...it is in a park several blocks away, below the bluff of the house and about three blocks north and east, facing the house.
Mark Hertzberg

SDR
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Post by SDR »

Image

peterm
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Post by peterm »

The bench is well designed, and appears to be well built. Kudos to Eric O'Malley for honoring Mr. Szymczak with such a sensitive gesture.

goffmachine
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Post by goffmachine »

Beautiful design and gesture.

Mark Hertzberg
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Post by Mark Hertzberg »

The words "Thomas P. Hardy House" are on the water just east of the house. Go straight up, to the land at top of water and that is Sam Myers Park, the location of the bench.
Mark Hertzberg

SDR
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Post by SDR »

Good. This view shows both the house and the park, labeled.


Image

PrairieMod
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Post by PrairieMod »

Thanks for the kind words and special thanks goes to Mark Hertzberg for coordinating this opportunity for me to design the bench, which I donated in honor of Gene, a truly remarkable and generous individual.

I thought I'd take a moment to post the original sketch for the bench design and my thoughts behind the concept:

Image

When asked to come up with a design for a park bench that would be fitting as a memorial to Gene, I wanted to do something "Wrightian" without being derivative.

After visiting the site, I wanted to take advantage of the spectacular Lake Michigan view as well as try and incorporate a sight-line to Hardy House (which is way off in the distance, but still can be seen).

What I came up with was a 10' x 10' overall design that integrated a cantilevered asymmetrical two-seat bench married to a geometric concrete core that has an integrated planting box. The backless seats allow for people to sit and lounge in any direction, with the concrete cube acting as an arm, or drink, or food, or laptop rest. The two-seats are in an "L" configuration to invite multiple people to sit and enjoy the view or share a conversation. I especially liked the idea of the bench lines trailing into the concrete core, almost like the branches of a tree or clinging vines.

I had the bench hug the corner of the concrete grid of stones in the initial design, but that grid was later changed to a tinted concrete pad for the sake of cost and long term maintenance (no one probably wanted to weed or wrangle greenery in between the stones.)

In keeping with a Wrightian aesthetic, the core and pad are formed and poured concrete (slightly tinted in color to make it more sandy in appearance). I initially thought a reinforced composite decking material would be best for the bench seat (to help weathering issues and to keep maintenance easy), but the fear of the cantilever not holding sitters made the city opt for a coated steel set of seats.

It was important for me to have the planter box integrated in the design, not only for a nod to all things Wrightian, but to soften the overall hard quality of the concrete and steel with some greenery.

Overall it was a very enjoyable project and the craftspeople who executed the design concept did a fantastic job of staying as true to the design as pragmatically possible. Hopefully it will serve as a wonderful tribute to a wonderful man and bring enjoyment to generations to come.

Thanks for everyone's interest and hopefully you'll get up to Racine to see it and the other sites!

Eric O'Malley

JJM
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Post by JJM »

Nicely done Eric. Thanks for sharing your sketch and design process.

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