The Atlantic Cities recently reported that people like movable chairs. More specifically, Nate Berg cited a 1980 study by William Whyte pointing out that if given the chance people will move public seating before actually sitting down. Berg also writes that movable chairs are common in New York.
All of which raises a question: why is there no movable seating in Provo’s public spaces? Given the under-performance of nearly all of those spaces it seems like movable seating might be a cheap and easy way to increase usage. It’s also working right now at a number of downtown restaurants.
Probably the most obvious objection to movable seating is theft. However, Berg tackles that objection:
“In municipalities there’s the sense that if it’s not bolted down, it will move beyond the park landscape. Well, we see all over the city those little foldup chairs and they’re not bolted down, they’re not even chained,” Price says, referring to the chairs added to pedestrianized plazas and street corners in Manhattan, such as Times Square. “They’re on all the intersections throughout the whole Manhattan landscape right now and they don’t seem to be walking away.”
“I just refuse to let [the possibility of theft] be the guiding force to deter us from trying,” she says, adding that RFID chips will be installed in the furniture to help prevent theft, or at least track wayward chairs down when they’re moved too far away.
Though the life-span of a movable chair is probably shorter than that of a bolted-down bench, Berg’s article — and the research it cites — suggests that chairs may actually be more effective. In that light, it doesn’t really make sense to install only marginally effective seating, or seating that doesn’t work at all, just to prevent theft.
Though theft itself may not be a big issue, the perceived threat of theft is probably a major stumbling block in cities like Provo. It may also be that designers outside of major urban centers simply haven’t considered the benefits of movable chairs.
But either way, this is a doable solution that doesn’t require major investment or changes to the built environment. In that light, it seems at least worth trying.