Not your average city bench: street furniture goes funky

Cities are places for not just for work, but also leisure. And designers understand this, offering creative alternatives to the classic city bench in public spaces. For example, how about waterfront hammocks, or swings while you wait for the bus? Or for lazy Parisian summer days, resting on a floating barge floating on The Seine? Or in rainy cities, such as Amsterdam, London or Seattle… what about benches and chairs that can be flipped to a drier side? These and other innovative street furniture designs were depicted on Bright Side. A few of my favorite alternatives to city benches are described below.

Copenhagen, Denmark

Whereas in many cities, citizens are discouraged from loitering for too long, in Copenhagen, public lounging is taken seriously, even encouraged. This is a city that measures urban quality of life, in part by how much its citizens enjoy its public spaces. And thus, all across the city are creative seating arrangements, such as the public hammocks located along the city’s canals. Designed by Jair Straschnow and Gitte Nygaard, these hammocks designed using old firehoses, aim to create spaces for people to frolic, play and relax. Want to learn more about their other designs? Check Citylab.

Image: Jair Straschnow

Montreal, Canada

Combining play and sound, 21 singing swings were temporarily installed, at bus stops and in other public spaces in Montreal’s Quartier des spectacles in Spring of 2011 to encourage residents, young and old, to play in public spaces. This city district is famous for its art scene, music and other public festivals, so perhaps a rather appropriate addition. For more information, see: PlayGroundology.

See: Quartier des spectacles on flickr


Seoul, South Korea

From a more practical standpoint, what to do about all those rainy cities and ensuing wet benches. Well, South Korean designer Sung Woo Park has invented rotating benches that can be flipped over to find the drier side. While perhaps not as playful as the swings or hammocks, a dry bench makes for a much nicer lunch spot than a wet one.

Image: Sung Woo Park

And finally, leave it to the Dutch to combine art, play and a dry city seat all in one – and of course, in the form of their beloved tulips. Dutch designer Marco Manders, who tired of sitting on wet benches, came up with the Tulpi Chair, which combines the practicality of a dry seat, with a splash of color in a city park. Just like the fold-away seats found at a movie theatre, the chair collapses when not in use, reducing rain exposure. While these funky chairs have been exported to various cities, they got special notoriety in Toronto, when Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima came in May 2015 as part of an official state visit, presenting 7 orange “Tulpi” chairs to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Dutch liberation in WWII, and Canada’s support to their liberation.

King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima test the Tulpi chairs in Toronto (Image: Nathan Denette/ The Canadian Press)

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