Alternative And Contemporary Street Seating

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Once upon a time the phrase 'street furniture' was synonymous with park benches. These tired, old fashioned items of outdoor furniture would be made of iron and wood, held together with nothing more complicated than a few screws. Typically, the English weather would quickly remove any trace of paint or colouring, thus leaving a rather tired and sad looking structure. In addition to its lack of style, the traditional bench suffered from another flaw, they were very uncomfortable. This lack of comfort was a legacy of the Victorian era, the strict and unforgiving work ethic of the times meant people were simply not expected to linger for long. A stiff-backed street-bench design helped to ensure these societal standards would be lived up to.
© Flickr: Haydnseek - bench

Tradition meets Modernity

An excellent example of the cross-over between traditional and modern street furniture is the work of the Shropshire-based artist carpenter Chris Nangle. Nangle’s great skill is his carpentry abilities. He has created a range of stylish furniture which utilises traditional hardwood materials (oak etc.). However with his designs the wooden elements are often modular, what this means is that the furniture can be displayed, and used, in different positions. The ability to turn a traditional hardwood material (often seen as boring) into something modern, an item which has the ability to move and metamorphose is a very clever thing. A good example of how he achieves this effect is the Green Oak Wave Bench, this distinctive piece was carved out of a single piece of oak, the design used involves a wave effect which generates the idea of an energetic and wave-like movement. Nangle can be proud of his achievements and his designs are certainly worth looking at. The artist is also able to make bespoke pieces at the request of individuals (or groups). Many examples of his work are already on public display, however, a detailed record of his designs can be found on his website.
©Chris Nangle Furniture - Green Oak Wave Bench

Contemporary Designs

Many twenty-first century designers have increasingly chosen to move away from the traditional hardwoods used to manufacture outdoor street furniture. In London, people can see one of the foremost examples of this new style. Exhibition Road in Kensington has street furniture made by Marshalls Street Furniture who are producers of a wide number of alternate street furniture. They have a number of items made of aluminium, a particularly versatile metal. The greatest reason for using aluminium to make furniture is that the material has proved very durable when exposed to the elements. The second advantage is that despite its resilient nature, an experienced craftsman can shape it to very precise specifications. This allows the finished furniture to take on some marvellous shapes without worrying about the material becoming weakened once placed outside. This functionality has allowed designers to make previously unknown designs that would be almost impossible if relying simply on wooden materials (such as two legged benches or seats cast in wondrous shapes).
Exhibition Road Reconstruction
Bradford Park Seating

Some Fantastic Designs

There are a number of wonderful street furniture designers in England. Bailey Street Scene showcases some very interesting pieces made by a company in Cheshire. Bailey Street Scene has worked with some very large organisations in a variety of English towns and cities. Their philosophy is to try and create furniture which blends into the surrounding area. To achieve this effect the company’s design team have created a range of alternative items including clever curved benches. Bailey Street Scene have also produced seats which are multicoloured and seats which can be integrated around existing features like flowerbeds or around trees without disturbing the scene. These items work well in urban settings and can be viewed in Bradford City Park, Bury and Barnsley. As a piece of art that can be both seen and touched these pieces are extremely popular and can inspire great affection among the people who have seen them.

The work of master furniture designers

The work of Street Design Limited is made up of an excellent range of street seating options; their website features some excellent ideas. The reason why this company is particularly interesting is that they base their designs on the premise that the seats must be compatible with the individual street. This leads to great variety in their pieces, each one made especially for the region in which it is to be set. This type of bespoke seating is popular and is to be found in many city centres.

Comfort and Style

In the twenty-first century, we (thankfully) live in an era which values leisure time; society now accepts that sometimes people like to have a comfortable place to sit in order to enjoy the outdoors. This modern attitude also had another side-effect; it has encouraged artists to become increasingly involved in the design of shared spaces (including street furniture). The increasing number of collaborations between artists and craftsmen has led to some very interesting developments; encouraging design and manufacture industries work together to create the modern, stylish and artistic street furniture now displayed in our public spaces.
© Chris Nangle Furniture - Green Oak Seating Blocks
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This article was written by Emma-Jane Swaffield, A mum of two who likes to notice the different and quirky things in life and point them out to others.

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Alternative And Contemporary Street Seating

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