Chiara Del Core 10 feb 2021 Design 0 comments

The bench: a guide to the best known of street furniture

The outdoor bench is considered one of the most popular public furniture components, thanks to its dual function, practical and aesthetic. In the urban context, it is found in parks and gardens but also along streets and pedestrian paths; sometimes it is equipped with flower boxes, in order to give green to those urban lots characterized by strong overbuilding. From a simple seat to an artistic installation, the bench has undergone considerable changes over time, up to today becoming a smart complement, thanks to which citizens can benefit from increasingly innovative services.

Below is a complete guide to getting to know this important piece of furniture that affects most of our cities.

The concept of the bench

The undisputed queen of street furniture, the bench boasts very ancient origins. In fact, born from the need to have a seat inside farmyards and farmhouses, it spreads before the classic single-seater chairs. Used by a wide range of users, the bench is often placed in front of the domestic fireplace in order to accommodate the whole family that meets in the evening or in their free time. Initially it consisted of a simple wooden plank supported by two vertical elements; only over the years was it enriched with backrests and arm rests. Archetype of modern benches, the raw wood bench marks the beginning of the history of the chair of which it is the direct ancestor.

Over time, this piece of furniture takes on a public but also private nature, just think of the gardens of the nineteenth-century villas where the ad hoc designed bench and surrounded by flowering hedges and shrubs could not be missing. Often, an indispensable integration of paths and walks, the bench is placed in strategic areas, such as a belvedere or a space intended for temporary parking. To this end, it is considered necessary to design real spaces intended for the break, to also favor the re-establishment of a relationship with the surrounding context and nature.

Woman seated on a bench - Claude Monet, 1874                                  On the bench in Bois - Giovanni Boldini, 1872
Throughout history, the bench has been considered not only a piece of furniture that had to fulfill its function of rest, but one of the greatest symbols of democracy and sociality. In fact, it is precisely in this place that individuals met in moments of relaxation and leisure and in this time frame the exchange and knowledge developed. These principles are still today basic elements of the concept of civilization and progress.
Furthermore, this furniture asserts itself as a place where stories are born and exceptional moments develop, becoming the subject of writings and theatrical and cinematographic scenery. The bench thus turns out to be a social emblem, a space linked to the common imagination and in some ways, deviating from its purely technical purpose, a romantic place and an almost dreamlike setting.

The bench project

Within the urban setting, the bench can find a place in diversified areas that have specific functions. The first case is that of public parks: these are indispensable spaces for the city that represent real green lungs, necessary for the improvement of atmospheric quality. Depending on the size of the park, inside there will be paths, sports areas, play areas and leisure areas. It would be difficult to imagine such spaces without the presence of adequate seats able to offer a comfortable stop to the user.

For this reason, the design of the benches must be carried out carefully. It will be necessary to place an adequate number of seats according to pre-established distances and choose the type of bench in relation to the specific function that is needed. In the case of relaxation areas where strollers want to find privacy and tranquility, single-seater benches will be indicated. These are seats equipped with armrests, where you stop to read a book or to relax. If, on the other hand, you are in an area with ample sociality, such as near a refreshment point or a bowling green, generously sized benches will be more suitable, oriented in order to encourage chat and interpersonal exchange. Another case can be that of seats located along cycle paths and pedestrian paths: the most modern solutions integrate bike racks and video surveillance cameras to ensure maximum functionality and safety. Finally, in the case of areas intended for sport and exercise, the bench can be equipped with an SOS column, prepared in case of need for the user.

Vis-à-vis bench
Multifunctional bench with bike rack and USB ports for charging mobile devices
Photo sx: - Caroline Williamson 
Photo dx:

To view the urban park project click here

However, benches can not only be found in parks and along paths but also inside squares and urban streets. Also in this case, this furniture will contribute to a better use of the city space and favor the socialization of users. Sessions are also necessary in the large arteries, in correspondence with the bus shelters, where a comfortable seat is essential to overcome long waits due to traffic problems and slowdown in the flow of public transport.

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