Radiator Furniture

Radiator Furniture
Loading process of the brick heat-battery bench at VARES in Valga, Estonia.
Heated furniture pieces for specific contexts. Radiators freed from 'plumbing' to become unfixed, nomadic, a mirror to ourselves.

Ben Weir
Schiedam, the Netherlands
I am a Belfast-born artist-architect based in the Netherlands. My practice takes many forms such as writing, research and building.
Team members
Ben Weir
Field of work
Architecture, Design, Visual Art, Research
Project category
Project submitted

I (Ben Weir *1991, Belfast) work within the discipline (as opposed to the profession) of architecture. I denounce the notion of the architect as a neutral service provider. I draw, write, research and build. I work to uncover hidden spatial and material potentials. I generate projects through the survey of existing conditions, a process that invents as much as records. I favour dynamism, the unfinished, the open-to-change. I reject demolition and tabula rasa. I dissect, re-present and interrogate existing urban artefacts, seeking to express their current condition, situation, or relationship to us. I insert new objects into this milieu, always seeking a positive contribution to a diverse, equitable and complex environment.

A graduate of the Glasgow School of Art (2015), I have since participated in residencies at the Jan van Eyck Academie in Maastricht (2018-19), Fundació Mies van der Rohe in Barcelona (2019-20), 3bisF in Aix-en-Provence (2022) and Greylight Projects in Heerlen (2022), and VARES in Valga, Estonia (2024). In 2024 I look forward to a residency in VierVaart, Groede, in the Netherlands.

I write in many different forms, and my forthcoming book, Screams from the Trees: Notes on Hermitages in Ulster, will be published by Flat-i and Onomatopee in 2024.

This project sees sustainability as inextricably linked to the economic precarity of creative practitioners and organisations. It addresses notions of comfort and basic needs through acts of design, generosity and care.

I work on-the-ground with local arts organisations who are often forced to occupy buildings in which size, location, insulation, heating etc, often falls short of basic standards, exacerbated by wider issues such as gentrification and profit-led redevelopment. I design heated furniture pieces that seek to address, rectify or express these issues. Drawing inspiration from artists as transient beings endlessly in flux.

The project therefore is also to do with efficiency, heat perception, and ergonomics. Is it okay to sit all day in a room of 14°C if you are on a warm object of 28°C? What about outside in 2°C?

VARES occupies a former school building that is forced to become smaller in winter, when only a few rooms can be maintained at a habitable temperature. It is heated by thirteen wood-burning stoves. I used salvaged bricks to borrow some of this heat, like a kind of heat battery, and transfer it into a pair of new steel benches.

In Catalyst Arts, budget cuts forced the artist-led organisation into a new smaller space, in which the gas-fired central heating wasn't working. I solved this by a sculptural intervention in the form of a new heating system- electric radiators suspended inside a series of steel elements that become warm to the touch, heating individual bodies directly as opposed to the space as a whole.

I work in a bricolage manner, tapping into material waste streams. The project has used, for example, bricks salvaged from demolition sites and metal gas canisters from local scrapyards. These objects take us on a kind of daily camping, where objects become significant for survival. They help us stave off the cold. Just for a little while, until we make it through once more.