Urban Playground: How Modern Designers Are Making Public Furniture FUNctional

Public furniture by traditional standards is purely for function.  There’s a bench; you sit on it.  End of story.  But why can’t that bench be more than a bench?

What if public furniture was fun?  Could visually appealing and interactive public furniture make dull activities like waiting for the bus a little less humdrum?

We touched upon the importance of public furniture on our sister blog Contempo Sofa a couple weeks ago, but, according to Web Urbanist, several designers have taken the issue much further.  Throughout the globe’s urban areas, designers are bringing a sense of playfulness back to public design – a belief that their work is not simply meant to be used, but enjoyed.

ChitChatTake for example, the ChitChat.  Created by Dutch Designer Teun Fleskens, the ChitChat concept “encourages conversation with humor – and good looks.”  Half bench, half balancing act, the ChitChat forces strangers to interact in order to remain balanced.

It’s a unique social experiment, one which suggests that social barriers will dissolve once two or more people are faced with a common problem.

Loop BenchWhile the ChitChat offers interaction, other pieces, such as The Loop Bench, encourage introspection.  Built from galvanized steel, the Loop Bench has all the regular features of a usual bench – feet, a plank and a back, however its structure twists and turns like a roller coaster, inviting visual stimulation.

The labyrinth like structure wraps pedestrians in a public space that somehow feels cut off from the public.  It creates a microcosm of absurdity and intrigue within the urban landscape, offering an escape and an inspiration.  The Loop Bench was built by Jeppe Hein.

Skateable BenchesAnd combining the two concepts of interaction and introspection, some pieces ask the viewer to think and play.  The Skateable park benches of London blend function, form and rebellion into a piece that speaks more about misconceptions regarding public space than the need for a seat.

“By virtue of its status as misuse of public space…skateboarding is exceptionally good at drawing attention to the quietly exclusionary nature of modern public space,” says designer Tom Hawes.

“Older children and young adults are either not considered in urban planning or outright excluded from public spaces.  Skateboarders add value to many unused public spaces.”

Although the benches are designed to fit into the traditional view of London public space, their function  invites modern critique, a comment on the need for public spaces to respond to the uses of the public.  By redesigning public space to fit modern usage, urban planners can breed an environment of diversity, acceptance and innovation, instead of alienation and criminalization.

As modern life evolves, it remains vitally important that architecture and public space change with it, to reflect not only the pragmatic transportation and commercial needs of a populace, but also the social and psychological changes it might undergo.

People don’t change architecture.  Architecture changes people.

Images via Web Urbanist

Urban Playground: How Modern Designers Are Making Public Furniture FUNctional via Contempo

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