City Bench transforms beech tree into Provost Office conference table

October 8, 2012

The Yale Provost’s Office, based in New Haven, Connecticut, recently commissioned a new conference table and credenza.  This isn’t any old conference table though, it is particularly sustainable: made from local trees and built by a company that recycles urban trees to make furniture. As they do with each of their clients, the City Bench team began the process by meeting with planners from the Provost’s Office to generate ideas for the conference table’s design. They considered the office environment the table would be located in and the other furniture in the office. Their final product, made of salvaged elm and beech, matched a conference table found downstairs in the building. 

City Bench includes information about the composition of their products on their “birth certificates,” copper plates attached to the furniture showing the type of tree used, the date it was cut down, and the location where it once stood. The conference table in the Provost’s Office, for example, was made from two beech trees that stood just across from the Peabody Museum, two blocks away from the building that houses the Yale Provost’s Office.

City Bench is currently working on a project for Morse and Stiles Colleges. They are constructing a table from a 60 year-old tree that stood on the grounds of Morse and Stiles. City Bench co-founder Ted Esselstyn and his team found electrical wires in the trunk of the tree when they milled it. According to Esselstyn, urban trees tend to have a variety of materials embedded in them. Bullets, cables, nails, and staples can enter their trunks, and the trees grow over those objects. Because of this, most commercial mills don’t handle urban trees. That’s why City Bench makes it their mission to reclaim these trees, process them, and give them back to New Haven as unique artistic symbols of the city’s cultural and environmental identity.

To read about other City Bench projects at Yale and in New Haven, click here.