: carried out by the Young Foundation/Sheffield Hallam University and funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, it investigates the power of benches to act as social meeting points, particularly for marginalised communities. It concludes: “Design of public spaces should increase the quantity and diversity of non-commercial seating, and introduce natural elements and planting wherever possible. The traditional two-seater bench may have had its day: longer benches and larger seating structures are more adaptable in supporting fluid social networks.” Music to my ears!
@ratethisbench is a great instagram account where a nice bloke shares his love…… and sometimes loathing……. of benches. He gives a bench marks out of 10 with up to 3 marks for location and setting and 1 for each of: arm rests, a concrete base, a plaque, a curved seat, it being wooden (you see! everyone loves a wooden bench) and good back support. The 10th and final mark is for the wow factor. Two hundred ratings in….. nearly 8,000 followers to date ….. and 9 is the top mark so far. Here’s hoping he rates one of my benches one day.
:a Canadian project to install friendship benches in every school in the country to raise awareness of youth mental health issues.
:a project in Zimbabwe where “community grandmothers” sitting on benches under trees offer free mental health counselling to a traumatised population (apparently, Zimbabwe boasts only 10 psychiatrists to serve a nation of 13 million).
:a project in Littlehampton to produce a lovely long bench with a twist, literally.
:a project based in Italy to encourage over-sized benches, built to a template, to be placed in sites with beautiful views…… as of may 2019, 63 and counting…… not the most beautiful benches to my eye but a nice idea, nonetheless.
:Jeppe’s work is more a play area than a bench…… the seat backs are a bit too upright for the seats to be comfortable, for instance….. but a novel use of the iconic bench, nonetheless.
:Stuart Semple’s fantastic campaign against “hostile design” kicked off over Bournemouth council’s addition of bars to the middle of benches to discourage homeless sleepers……. ho hum.
:Paul Cocksedge’s “bench” for the London Design Festival is a thing of beauty…… it may not tick all the boxes in terms of comfort and communability but design is always a question of balancing compromises so, in this case, who cares?
:Ryan Gander’s bench, developed by workshopping with schoolchildren, is striking….. more art than bench to my mind, but lovely things, all the same.
:benches, albeit not supremely comfortable ones, that incorporate walls of moss to ameliorate air pollution in urban environments. what’s not to like?
: Oslo’s waterfront revived….. and lounger benches, to boot! Interestingly, they use the same basic construction that we prefer, with a steel base and wooden slats.
: Brighton’s New Road renewed with benches aplenty.
: Copenhagen’s long bench which sits at the heart of a community.
: a UK Community Interest Company that works to provide local communities with benches and accompanying planters to encourage socialisation and combat loneliness. Hats off to ’em!
:my nemesis, this bench is the poster child of hostile design, specifically designed to “deter use for sleeping, littering, skateboarding, drug dealing, graffiti and theft”…….. essentially, it is more of a terrorist crash-barrier than a bench……. if they don’t want anyone to sit down, why not save the money and give it to a homeless charity….. and reduce street clutter, too?
Bill Bryson’s The Road to Little Dribbling (Doubleday 2015)- i hope he won’t mind me quoting him:
On Dover: “Not long before my visit, the council installed new benches on the seafront that were designed not to be too comfortable. When asked by the local paper why they had chosen uncomfortable benches, a councillor replied somewhat bewilderingly: ‘If they were too comfortable, we would have the gentlemen and ladies of the day lounging on them.’ And that is perhaps all you need to know to understand why Dover is dying.”
Notting Hill (1999 film; director Roger Michell; writer Richard Curtis)
The protagonists, Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant, meet on this bench in a park:
Last Christmas (2019 film; director Paul Feig)
Emilia Clarke falls for Henry Golding on a memorial bench in a park bearing the legend “Look Up”.
Other famous films where park benches have starring roles include Forrest Gump (that particular bench is now in the Savannah History Museum), Good Will Hunting, The Words, 500 Days of Summer (in Angels Knoll Park in Los Angeles), The Mask, The Bourne Identity, La La Land, Blue Jasmine, JFK, Love Actually, Dallas Buyers Club, Finding Neverland, The Fault in Our Stars, Manhattan,………