While spending time with family this past weekend, I had the opportunity to wander around Salt Lake several times. During my wanderings I saw a few interesting examples of public seating.
The benches in the picture above solve one of the major problems with a lot of public seating: facing nothing. In this case, the benches are facing each other, potentially facilitating interaction. They’re also surrounded by a visually interesting but still very open fence-like structure which creates an important psychological barrier. It means that these benches create a potentially intimate and semi-private space without creating a visual blind spot on the sidewalk.
Laura did point out that the street is fairly noisy and we never actually saw anyone using these benches, so problems clearly persist. But compared to this pointless bench in downtown Provo, the example above seems like the pinnacle of success.
Later, I went to City Creek. In the past, I’ve expressed disappointment with City Creek on economic grounds; as a vast hub for chain retailers it exports wealth and leaves just the skim off the top — a few service industry jobs, sales tax, rent, etc. — for the local community.
But it does do some things well. For example, it’s designers have deployed movable seating:
I mostly saw people treating these chairs as benches by sitting down without moving them. I think that was probably because all the holiday shoppers in the mall made it difficult to significantly adjust the chair. So, they might be suffering from questionable placement.
But as this post points out, movable seating can be an effective addition to a public space. City Creek is clearly trying that, and it should be commended for the effort.