“Modified Social Benches”: An Experiment in Outdoor Socializing

An installation of creatively shaped benches in Belgium pushes the edge of urban sit-ability.
This article originally appeared on Shareable.

Photos courtesy of Jeppe Hein.

Jeppe Hein, a Danish artist known for creating experiential art, has put an interesting twist on park benches by populating the town of De Haan in Belgium with his eye-catching “modified social benches.” The benches, which range from the super-comfy-looking to the seemingly unsittable, are intended to bring people together in unexpected ways and make them more aware of their surroundings.

While they look enough like traditional park benches to be recognizable as something you sit on, Hein’s benches have features that break the park bench mold: tight angles, slopes, missing pieces, loops, dips, closed circles and more. With their unusual shapes, the benches are conversation starters and people magnets and they add a fun touch to public spaces.

Of the benches Hein says, “With their modification, the spaces they inhabit become active rather than places of rest and solitude; they foster exchange between the users and the passers-by, thus lending the work a social quality.”

No choice but to sit...together.

No choice but to sit...together.

Is it a gazebo or a bench? You choose.

Is it a gazebo or a bench? You choose.

A bench and slide, great for families and hipsters.

A bench and slide, great for families and hipsters.

The tete-a-tete taken to a new level.

The tete-a-tete taken to a new level.

This bench seats many and orders space in the park.

This bench seats many and orders space in the park.

The nap bench.

The nap bench.


Cat Johnson contributes regularly to , where this article first appeared. She is a freelance writer reporting on community, culture, music and design. Other venues she's written for include GOOD, the Santa Cruz Weekly, Metro Silicon Valley, and No Depression. Follow her on Twitter at @catjohnson.

Interested?

  • Jay Walljasper on why “profitable economic function” is sometimes less valuable than empty space.

  • How can planners attract the 60 percent of Americans who say they would bike more if they felt more secure? The answer could be cheap and simple.

  • The way we design our communities plays a huge role in how we experience our lives.