Behind the Scenes of a Public Project: Bristol Wood Street Furnishings

Behind the Scenes of a Public Project

Ever wondered how all those public projects come into being? Follow one project from start to finish, step by step!

Bristol Wood Street Furnishings

The Steel Yard has a history of working with the Town of Bristol, which began in 2010. In the beginning of the partnership, we did a lot of work on Hope Street, which is a vibrant street of small businesses, schools, and municipal buildings close to the water. The street hosts the infamous Bristol 4th of July Parade and is a popular tourist attraction.

Figure 1: A trash can made in 2010 paired with a 2016 recycling can along Independence Park in Bristol. 

Also in 2016, we began work in the historic Wood Street neighborhood. Mosaico Business and Community Development Corp. commissioned a medallion chain link fence for the enormous Bristol Industrial Park complex, which they were renovating for new businesses to move into.
Figure 2: Anthony and Dakota, who helped design and fabricate the fence, pose with one of the decorative panels outside Bristol Industrial Park on Wood Street

The Wood Street neighborhood contains some of Bristol’s more industrial sites, higher diversity, and a mix of incomes. The Wood Street neighborhood is experiencing a renaissance, as young entrepreneurs are starting new businesses.

It is because of this renaissance, and the active use of the street by locals on foot, that the Town’s planning department wanted to hire us to create a totally unique line of street furnishings for the neighborhood. The pieces honor its character and history and improve the pedestrian and biking experience.

So, how do we start?!

SY staff met with local business owners and town planners to determine what exact amenities they wanted for their street. We decided on combination trash/recycling cans that are side opening, for easier emptying by DPW, bike racks, and decorative medallions for the lampposts. We put together an estimate, and Bristol managed to secure the funds. We sign a Steel Yard contract, and are ready to go!

The Design Process

We are fortunate to exist in an amazing community of talented artists. After having visited the neighborhood, gotten a feel for the aesthetic desired by the Wood Street community, the Steel Yard selected a team of artists who we thought would be a good fit for the project: Brendan Rose, Ruthie Henry, and Brian Dowling. Once the three of them were on board, we began the design process with a field trip! What better way to gain some inspiration?

Figure 3: Tim Ferland, Public Projects Director, leads the artists on a walk down Wood Street.

Here the artists got to take photos for reference, get a feel for the area, speak with locals, and do some sketches.
Figure 4: The artists look at some of the architectural details on the street.
After the field trip, we as a team decided that each artist would do some individual sketches to start. Each artist came up with some designs and themes for each of the products. We met at the Steel Yard to go over the designs. Here are some initial sketches:

The Steel Yard then sent a packet of those designs over to our clients in Bristol to gain some feedback. We always factor in at least one round of revisions in our contracts, as it’s important to us to make the client happy. Here, they can pick a design they like best, ask for things to be combined, modified or changed.

As you can see, we ended up combining the paneling of Ruthie’s trashcans onto one of the forms created by Brendan.


Once the designs are finalized, the artists fabricate the products in the Steel Yard’s shop. We purchase the materials; provide the tools, project oversight, and insurance. This way the artists just come in and get to work! Below see an example of a final sketch, and then the same bike rack being made!


Bristol chose the colors they wanted, and we took everything to our amazing partners over at Teknicote to get powder coated. Thanks, Teknicote! 


When the weather was nice again, we were able to hire back some recent graduates from Weld to Work, to help install all of these pieces. It took a couple of days, but everything is now in place! 

Ready to Enjoy! For more pictures of the Wood Street furnishings, visit our “Past Projects” Portfolio

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