Shaping our city

City street furniture by design

29 March 2023

For most people, when they sit down on a city bench they wouldn’t often think about what it’s made of, what colour it is, or how it would hold up in extreme weather.

However, for Albin Pluche, Senior Industrial Designer at City of Melbourne, these are the exact thoughts that would run through his mind.  

Welcome to the exciting, complex and creative world of industrial design – a sometimes overlooked but integral part of our day-to-day lives.  

“Industrial design is the practice of analysing, creating, and developing mass-produced products,” Albin said. 

“Most everyday life products are a result of industrial design; your mobile phone, the tram you take to work, your apartment’s furniture, even your toothbrush.” 

While Albin doesn’t quite design toothbrushes at City of Melbourne, he does play an important role in creating welcoming and accessible experiences for people visiting or living in our municipality.  

One of the most visible examples of our industrial design is our iconic street furniture. This functional, accessible and sustainable furniture is carefully designed to meet the needs of the community, while also making sure they look aesthetically appealing.  

Two people sitting on a steel park bench overlooking the Yarra River with the city skyline in the background.
New seating installed along Southbank Promenade is designed by our City Design team

“Our team aims to create contextually responsive and well-integrated, innovative and sustainable products,” Albin said.  

“The City of Melbourne is unique as it has an in-house multidisciplinary design studio, which gives us the possibility of great integration and consistency across our furniture designs in terms of style, reproducibility, and adaptability.” 

We’re also unique in that we have a very high concentration of street furniture compared to other capital cities across the world. 

“This decision was made to increase the amount of respite – critical to enabling a city that is inclusive and amenable to people of all ages and abilities,” Albin said. 

No two days look the same for Albin. With projects taking up to several months, Albin will often be working on multiple designs simultaneously.  

A person bent down drinking from a water fountain. There are rubbish bins behind them.
Our industrial designers create everything from rubbish bins and water fountains to street lights and planter boxes

From original concept sketches, to development and finalising technical drawings for our manufacturers, Albin’s wide variety of expert skills and knowledge are put to use across a broad range of projects. 

One of Albin’s latest projects saw him designing for a very surprising and fluffy client. 

“We recently designed a duckling ramp for the Exhibition Fountain in Carlton Gardens,” he said. 

“It was probably the cutest and most feel-good project I have ever had the chance to work on. Sometimes the target audience we design for is unexpected.” 

So what ultimately makes a good design for city street furniture? For Albin, street furniture that seamlessly blends into our city, while providing functionality are the hallmarks of a great design. 

“Street furniture that feels familiar to the point that we do not notice it anymore, furniture that is functional, elegant and endures over time, and more generally feels of its place, is a good design for me,” he said.

This catenary light net adds to the atmosphere in Lonsdale Street

Check out some of Albin’s favourite street designs

  • Rod seats and swivel rod seats on Bourke Street mall 
  • The tram shelters on Swanston Street 
  • Our many park benches 
  • Lonsdale Street catenary lights net 
  • Chinatown lanterns 
  • The solar tree next to ArtPlay on Birrarung Marr 
  • Our planters and drain gardens on Guildford Lane 
Tram shelters across the city provide respite and protection from the elements

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