Lean or mean?

Lean Seat, by Joscelyn BinghamImage from a flyer by Joscelyn Bingham.

The Lean Seat bench, by Joscelyn Bingham, a graduating 3D Design student from University College Falmouth, is a ‘traditionally’ styled slatted wooden alternative to the (usually) unattractive anti-sit perches often found in public places. Note: the surface of the seat is very definitely tilted, and while the slats certainly increase the frictional effect, you perch on it rather than actually sit.

Displayed at New Designers in London last week, it was interesting to see that the rationale behind the project, as explained on the accompanying boards, specifically mentioned “discouraging longer-term stays” as a feature of the design. You couldn’t lie down on this bench; you couldn’t put anything down next to you (such as your lunch, or a child with tired legs) either. However, the rationale also explained how this kind of seating angle can be of anatomical benefit (along the lines of kneeling stools, perhaps), and, as Rich Lafferty pointed out before when we looked at deliberately uncomfortable public seating, for many, especially older people, a perch-type seat can provide a few minutes’ welcome respite without the often difficult task of lowering and raising oneself into and from a fully seated position.

I’m not averse to the provision of perch-type seats and benches. They clearly have their uses, and many users will prefer them: I know I’d often rather semi-perch on the padded bulkheads on tube trains when only going a few stops, than find a seat. But where there is no alternative, and proper benches or other seats are cynically removed or entirely replaced with perches, I don’t like it.


  1. I share your dislike, Dan.

    My personal view also takes in the non-homeless/loitering citizens most likely to need or appreciate a place to sit and rest. This includes not only tired moms (been there done that) but also people with injuries (including athletes and those recovering from surgery) as well as a goodly percentage of the older half of our increasingly aging population. What number of these citizens give up how much needed exercise, fresh air, etc., for the reasons you post about?

    Less exercise slows healing and also speeds health deterioration associated with aging. Do you think that this translates into increased medical costs to the state?


  2. So, how about guerilla marketing style anti-anti-sit seats?

    1) Utilise the cardboard furniture technique: http://www.rd.se/1/product_info.php?products_id=356

    2) Find a design for a ‘cardboard park bench’ that is simple enough that it can be cobbled together from a variety of sizes of cardboard boxes one might find behind the shops of a high street.

    3) Print a reel of white parcel tape with the words “This eco-friendly bench provided for the benefit of itinerants and residents of Dismalton, Rottenborough District. Sit as long as you want. Lay down and sleep by all means, but please share this seat with others.”

    4) Each night, raid the backs of shops for large cardboard boxes, whip out the box cutters/Stanley knives and knock out umpteen park benches, bus stop seats, etc.

    Or something like that.

    Perhaps also, for each anti-sit seat design, one could come up with cardboard add-ons that re-enable long-term seating and recumbence. These could be labelled “Temporary Seat Repairs”, “Protective Seat Covers”, “Citizen City Seats”, or something far wittier.

    Alternatively, one could construct life sized, papier mache vagrants/scare-crows/effigies (using very smelly paper collected from refuse sites) and affix these to all the anti-sit benches (finishing the effect by covering the seat-abuser with an ill-fitting cardboard box).

  3. Alex

    Posturite needs some cookies, or it won’t let you in. Please check the link.

  4. Speaking of guerilla-type tactics, a Boston “guerilla artist” recently designed and installed in a local park (without the authorities’ permission) a wooden “bench object” styled similarly to the one pictured above, but shaped like a “U”.
    It is completely unsittable.

    It’s puzzling at first, but it now seems like the perfect critique of the “deliberately uncomfortable public seating” discussed here.

    Here’s a radio story & photo gallery of the installation:

  5. Pingback: (Anti-)public seating roundup at fulminate // Architectures of Control

  6. Pingback: » Blog Archive » State Alpha, on the architecture of sleep at the NAI in Maastricht

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