Almost lost to time in a warehouse, a series of American-made Chromcraft airport benches are now being brought back to life by PDXoriginals. These modular leather benches have been lovingly restored and will be unveiled during the Design Week Portland Opening Party, then displayed at the Keller Auditorium during TEDxPortland. After the events, and a time period of display, each bench will be sold in an online public auction, with proceeds benefiting New Avenues for Youth.
We spoke with the team at PDXoriginals about the discovery and restoration of these historic pieces. Read on to learn more in this Q&A.
DWP: How did the team come across the opportunity to claim these almost forgotten benches?
PDXoriginals: We often purchase from state and city auctions. We love dealing in forgotten relics and pieces of Portland history. When Port of Portland listed these chairs, we saw a lot of potential, and headaches. PoP struggled to find any buyers for over a month, and the benches seemed destined for scrap. We love mid century modern furniture, and were familiar with Chromcraft, the maker. It seemed tragic that these timeless pieces of American furniture that hosted so many memories would turn into scrap metal. So we pounced, and PDXoriginals was born.
DWP: Can you speak more to the involvement of the different design teams who will be redesigning the benches? Are there parameters for what they’re allowed to do?
PDXoriginals: We wanted to allow our collaborators freedom to allow their memories dictate their design. We stressed the idea that these were blank canvases. We really didn’t give many parameters, this project is about creating new ideas and allowing imagination to dictate design.
DWP: Are there really 400 of these laying in a warehouse now? Are they all planned for a redesign?
PDXoriginals: Those that visit the warehouse for our April 20th open house will get an idea of the exhausting endeavor this really was. There are thousands of individual chairs stacked into pallet racking in our relatively small warehouse space. In short, yes, there are really 400 laying around. We’re reserving some of the unscathed chairs for sale, but a large majority aren’t in great shape, and are destined for re-design.
DWP: What’s been the most interesting or unexpected part of acquiring and working on all of the benches?
PDXoriginals: We had a feeling these chairs would induce flashbacks, but we really weren’t prepared for the level and enthusiasm and nostalgia associated with these. These chairs hold decades of memories, of missed flights, of long layovers, of anxious anticipation for your next adventure. These chairs harken back to an era of pre-9/11 airports, where you spent time waiting for your loved ones at the gate, on these chairs. Of an era of American furniture making before cheap, IKEA style furniture reigned supreme.
This is a project of passion. We’ve sunk our blood, sweat and tears into this. The process of turning 400 chairs into storable, stacked individual chairs was truly daunting. We’re proud of the work done, and excited with what’s to come. DWP is an incredible event/opportunity and we’re grateful to be apart of it.
This isn’t the end of PDXoriginals collaboration benches. This city has an amazing design community, and we will continue to strive to bring new and interesting collaboration projects to the public.
Venue: PDXoriginals Warehouse, 4409 SE 24th Ave
Preview at DWP Opening Party: Saturday, April 14, 7–11pm
PDXoriginals Open (ware)house: Friday, April 20, 1–6pm
PDXoriginals Warehouse Party: Friday, April 20, 6–9pm
Visit the event page to register.