Place Activation - Meeting Places, Seating Spaces
"I’ve always seen the park bench as a good metaphor for good urban space. You sit on them, you fall in love on them, you eat your sandwiches on them, you get drunk on them, you carve your name and your girlfriend’s name on them…” (Andrew Shoben, director of UK collective Greyworld)
Urban Designers around the world argue that the park bench is a good metaphor for good urban spaces. Jan Gehl’s Public Space Public Life research revealed that Perth has increased its cafe chair seats by 74% since 1993. Improvements to our streetscapes since the initial report have been fundamental to the increasing number of people enjoying Perth’s streets.
There are some areas in Perth that are still limited in their seating capacity and attractiveness due to environmental constraints and their physical layout. Areas such as St Georges Terrace, which has few options for public seating, are traffic focused and not attractive for pedestrians. Cafes along the terrace are usually tucked into alleys and malls away from the noise of traffic. On the other hand, the restrictions of King Street’s physical size, along with its heavy pedestrian flow during the day, means that benches and seating would clutter an already busy footpath.
Public innovations that encourage interaction can be a powerful element of urban activation. The elements of a street or sidewalk, including artwork, seating, shop fronts and varied spaces enable and inspire a person to interact and engage with their environment. So how can we create these ‘people spaces’?
Good Examples of Public Seating
Interactive ambient lighting in public seating: 'Mood Seats' that change colour in response to people's actions. The interactive lighting inside public seating glows, dims, flashes and changes colour in response to people's presence and actions.
The EyeStop is a revolutionary attempt at changing the whole experience of urban travel. At the touch of a finger, passengers can get the shortest bus route to their destination or the position of all the buses in the city. The EyeStop will also glow at different levels of intensity to signal the distance of an approaching bus. “EyeStop is like an 'info-tape' that snakes through the city," said project leader Giovanni de Niederhousern. "It senses information about the environment and distributes it in a form accessible to all citizens.
The Boom Bench, created by NL Architects, allows users to play music from their mobile phones to turn a park bench into their own DJ booth.
Inspired by the routine intersections between nature and human beings, 'The Alcove', by designer Elliot Ortiz, is innovative public seating that takes users straight into a natural world surrounded by green vegetation. Finished with granite (base), wood and natural grass (grown for cushion), the Alcove gives new dimensions to human relationships with nature by bringing life to the urban public places. Over time, nature grows over the seating and creates a truly cozy intimate area to relax. The Alcove doesn't just give a new look to the public seating realm, but at the same time it boasts unparalleled functionality, as the users may sit, relax and even skate on its granite base. It’s a truly unique blend of form and function.
Outdoor Solar Light station
If you are having trouble getting out of the office, maybe it's time to take the office out. This eco-friendly workspace by Mathias Schnyder is designed as a calming haven where office dwellers or uni students can escape to the great outdoors.
Tree Guard Bench
A dynamic and multi-functional piece of street furniture; ‘Tree Guard Bench’ aims to challenge perceptions of how public seating should look and perform. Its primary functions combine the need to protect urban trees, while providing an elegant seating solution. ‘TGB’ also acts as a piece of sculpture; making not only an aesthetic statement through the contrast between nature and engineered materials, but also through highlighting the importance of trees in urban environments.
Message combines good seating comfort with attractive aesthetics, low maintenance, longevity and the integration of light. Powered by a Li-Ion battery, the power is generated by nearby solar panels and is integrated with sensor technology.
The bench is designed in an organic and comfortable shape, which integrates well into a natural environment. The surface is made of perforated metal and designed in a way that plants such as ivy and grass can grow on it, allowing it to become part of the landscape.
Stories from people sitting on benches are written in Morse on the frames of the benches. Readers can pass on the message.
Got an idea to put forward for a public space?
Places for me aims to not only increase the amount of place-making discussion in Perth, but also to stimulate change with the backing of statistics and good ideas. The site, created by the Young Designers Group (YDG), provides a medium through which people like you can express your ideas and leave constructive feedback about how you think Perth’s places can be better utilised and enriched.