September 12, 2011

Colorful sitting space, but is it convival?

Image: 200 Water Street chairs ((note the Rudolph de Harak digital clock in the background)
We spotted these colorful chairs on a trip to South Street Seaport last weekend and recalled that when we lived in Berkeley, we blogged about sitting spaces available in many of the city's neighborhoods.  There we discovered a tree guard that doubled as a bench, and wrote a post about an adobe bench at San Felipe de Neri in Albuquerque.  

Image: Chairs on Fulton Street
Although the Water and Fulton Streets seating is fixed, it is arranged in pairs and, here, seems to encourage interaction.  A close-up of a pair can be seen on the Alliance for Downtown New York Flickr page.

Here is what William H. Whyte had to say about fixed individual seats in The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces (1980):
Fixed individual seats are not good.  They are a design conceit.   Brightly painted and artfully grouped, they can make fine decorative elements....But they are set pieces.  That is the trouble with them.  Social distance is a subtle measure, ever changing, and the distances of fixed seats do not change, which is why they are rarely quite right for anybody.  Loveseats may be all right for lovers, but they're too close for acquaintances, and much too close for strangers.  Loners tend to take them over, placing their feet squarely on the other seat lest someone else sit on it.
How do you sit in public? What type of sitting space do you prefer?

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