The Whole Earth Bench is a cob bench constructed during the 2004 Whole Earth Festival as a result of a building materials workshop held during the event. Cob is a construction material made of clay, sand, and straw. Everyone from little kids to grandmothers to hippies to faculty members had a hand in building the bench. All came away with stained brown hands and a sense of accomplishment.

The bench is hard, like rock. Unlike concrete poured into a mold however, it is smooth since it does not have the holes left from surface air bubbles. The natural earth color means it never looks dirty, nor will it develop rust stains from using iron hardware. During Summer 2004 it was sprayed with linseed oil which is an agent for protecting wood (and, apparently, masses of concentrated dirt). Considering that the bench is still in perfect condition after a long time outside, the building materials have certainly proven successful.

The bench in August 2005 This is actually the second such bench that has been built on campus. The first one was built under a tree on the Quad during WEF '03, but it is alleged that the administration insisted that it be destroyed. A couple more were planned to be built in conjunction with Whole Earth Festival 2006, though it is unverified whether or not this came to pass.



As of 2006, the bench is reportedly not bright brown like in these two photographs.

Cob links


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Inquiries on the subject of why anyone would want to sit on a huge dirt clod that bears more than a passing resemblance to a piece of poo will likely have to wait until the hippies come back next year.

Sorry but that is pretty tacky/ugly. I guess one is tolerable but please no more!—JamesDawe

I used to walk down the path by the bench every day, but I haven't since they built that bench there. I just don't like the feeling of vomiting in my own mouth. Please someone destroy the bench. —DaveHalifax

I feel I should point out that besides looking like a piece of poo in the shape of a bench, I've only seen someone sit on this thing once, and I pass by it almost daily. I don't blame the administration for wanting the previous one removed! - AmitVainsencher

I like the bench and sit on it frequently. - JackHaskel

I remember being really...happy...when I walked by and saw these sweet hippies making the bench. I told them that the bench would probably be moved and they said they didn't care. I hope they come back and see what a great job they did.—RobertBaron

I will pay someone 5 dollars to destroy this bench.—RandyFranks

2006-01-02 15:42:15   For those of you that have watched Dirty Jobs on Discovery, they have a segment on Cob houses, including the use of manure as grouting between the Cob bricks. —EricWu

2006-01-03 09:16:16   I was in Davis back in Jun 2004 and I thought I sat on the previous bench that was right by the door into Olson Hall under the tree. I remembered talking to a guy who was a former steel mill worker from Northern Indiana. I was taking a breather after doing some bike riding around the Davis area. —BradCuppy

2006-01-10 05:34:29   I don't understand how anyone could not like these benches. Is it the color? Location? Shape? Material? It's a rounded organic shape made of earth-friendly materials, and warm brown, the color of our Earth, is as natural as it gets. I'm frightened by how disconnected some are from their home. —SteveDavison

Whether or not the bench is "natural" or "organic" isn't the question. The question is if it is pretty. I don't see how it is more natural than any other bench anyway. As for pretty, I think it is not, mostly because of the disorganized texture. In general I agree with the people who say it looks like a big turd, and is ugly for many of the same reasons. -NickSchmalenberger

I hope you're kidding. People don't like it because it looks like an enormous shit pile in amongst otherwise normal looking and complementary building structures. In the time that it's been around, I've never once seen anyone sit on it or even stop and 'appreciate' it - and I frequent the area often. —JohnNapier

2006-02-07 20:26:11 Why do people hate this bench? I understand being indifferent to it, but active hate? I would like to tell a story about my high school. We had $10,000 set aside just for art for the entire school. A board of people got together and decided to spend all of that in one go to pay a sculptor. What we got was an eight foot tall blocky surrealistic sculpture that looked like a gigantic bunny. I wish I had a picture of it to put up here. It was ridiculous. I hated it, mostly because I felt that the money could have been put to better use than a gigantic rabbit-looking thing that wasn't supposed to be a rabbit. But this bench cost nothing, is in no one's way, and harmed no one. It is also remarkably comfortable for something so hard. This particular quarter, when days are nice, I can be found sitting there reading on Mondays before my Shakespeare class, so clearly the bench is useful to someone. —ElisaBursten

2006-04-09 18:52:20   I think the line "natural earth color means it never looks dirty" is up for debate >.> And I've never really seen anyone on it, but I always hear comments about it, always negatively. I think it looks pretty ugly too. —ES

2006-04-09 19:05:37   I don't hate the bench but I think one is more than enough, thank you. —JesseSingh

2006-04-09 19:51:27   In the new pictures it doesn't look shiny and high contrast, and I think it is a significant improvement. —NickSchmalenberger

2006-04-09 21:05:15   I remember watching this bench be built in 2004. I wonder if permission was asked before this one was built. —RobRoy

2006-10-23 11:50:09   It does look remarkably like a piece of feces... —MatthewTom

2010-12-10 06:43:15   I don't think that this is ugly at all, and I'm a little astonished that so many people are repulsed by it. I mean it's a stone bench, but I will admit that the new grayish color is an improvement of the brown. I'm totally loving the pot inside it, it makes it whimsical. —jwieland1989