Evil benches


somewhere the quest for sanitizing publics spaces and security took a wrong turn, when benches in public places became targets for nasty elitist paranoid xenophobes.

Anti-skating pucks, arms that only allow sitting (not sleeping), seats that are just 2" wide ledges, or convex tubes have be come the norm. We've lost civility and a basic amenity that activates public places
blogdowntown , ohmynews & Architecture of Control

is this sooooo bad?

that we need to do this:

not that this is anything new:

the victorians embedded broken glass and spiky stones on top of ledges where they didn't want undesirable elements finding respite.

Apr 25, 08 10:14 am
brian buchalski

the victorians are my favorite

Apr 25, 08 10:46 am  · 

i heard that at the dupont mansion in delaware, they put colored shards of glass in the top of the large wall around the grounds so the kids or anyone inside couldnt climb them and escape

and there is also the whole story about the whole family and why they would be escaping anyway

i must admit, sometimes i find the elements used to prevent skateboarding or sleeping on low walls to be kind of nice looking
other times it looks cheesy

Apr 25, 08 11:04 am  · 

i can understand why they strive to prevent skateboarding
and what not, but sometimes people try too hard and
it takes character and or outdoor comfort away from
public areas

its those damn smurfs, their everywhere

Apr 25, 08 11:09 am  · 

so thats why they put hockey pucks on escalators...

Apr 25, 08 11:16 am  · 

i wouldn't say they are evil, because most all of us know evil is a lie and fake, but they are obstructionist

as a architect who skates, architecture is all about skateability

as my gereration gets older will will yet get our revenge on these facility managers, elitist paranoid xenophobes, and anti-homeless snobs

life saftey and liability have no place in denying our fellow men and women the ability to sleep or skate.

Apr 25, 08 11:33 am  · 

my issue with the smurfs is their lack of hygiene and terrible b.o. such that I don't like to be near them. if there were more public showers, bathrooms, and free laundry facilities for them to use, i'd be happy to have them camp under my mushrooms or sleep on my benches. [/satire]

Apr 25, 08 12:03 pm  · 

Everybody should know about these landscape architects:

They design landscapes TO BE skateable! When I found out about this firm a few years ago, this was a revelation - both as a skateboarder for more than half of my life, and as a designer.

Apr 25, 08 12:17 pm  · 
won and done williams

skate friendly architecture sounds like a bad thesis from 1999.

on the other hand, going to the extremes shown above makes for some pretty fugly design of public space. just make it look good and let the bums sleep where they will.

Apr 25, 08 12:23 pm  · 

Walter Hood has created several parks in the east bay that accommodate both winos and stock traders. Why can't other park administrations be so humane?

Apr 25, 08 12:30 pm  · 

only the dead are allowed to take a nap. others should have tubes up to their ass!
don't sleep on the grass or else!
no one is allowed to rest, except as indicated in architects' rendering.!

Apr 25, 08 12:52 pm  · 

i can see things from both sides with skateboarding

on one hand, it can be really annoying in a city park when it becomes completely overun by skateboarders and you get a board come flying at you when someone loses control of it

especially if it is like a public square or something, and no one can enjoy it if there are that many skateboarders

but then again it is a public place, so they shouldnt be kept out completely

what kind of places are now skateable because of their design slantsix? do they do that for all of their work?

Apr 25, 08 12:54 pm  · 

i just looked at their website, kind of cool

i admit, if you design a public space around skateboarding, it can look pretty cool

if there were more places like that, then maybe they wouldnt be trying to jump over old ladys who are sitting on a bench

Apr 25, 08 12:56 pm  · 

hey! it's bam margera!

dude on the left is probably a well known skater too, but i don't know who he is.

Apr 25, 08 1:43 pm  · 

I had the pleasure of working on a feasibility study to replace Love Park in philly with a skate park next to the art musuem. too bad I'm not a skater- not sure what ever happened to the proposed parking structure, softball fields and the skate-a-rama...

Apr 25, 08 1:44 pm  · 

when was that tree?

it doesnt seem like anything like that is still in the works
i look down on Love Park from my office every day
its nice, but a little bum ridden
its a great place to eat lunch when its warm out
it would be a shame if they got rid of it

Love Park isnt really next to the art museum though
its by City Hall

by the art museum seems like a nice place for a skate park if done right. since there arent a ton of offices, it seems like it wouldnt have the conflict that making Love Park or City Hall into a skate park would have

Apr 25, 08 1:53 pm  · 

that study was during the summer of 2004. Drop me a note & I'll send your the drawings.

the problem about having a skating mecca by the art museum is the long schlep from public transit versus love park being right next to the subway/septa. I mean, what self respecting urban skater would ask their mom for a ride down to the local skate park from the main line?

Apr 25, 08 2:35 pm  · 

You guys don't know about this?

Right by the river next to the art museum. I think it is still happening...

Apr 25, 08 3:05 pm  · 

oh wow
no, i didnt know about that

do you know who is doing it?
its such a nice area there, could be really cool

Apr 25, 08 3:07 pm  · 

That's the site that I did those studies for with MGA Partners. Olin did the Parkway masterplan in 2003(?), and there are other usual suspect that could be working for CCD.

Apr 25, 08 3:44 pm  · 

whoa theres a philarch...

anyway, a friend of mine who is studying
to be an engineer says that if he were
to go into architecture he would prefer
if i wasnt studying arch, id want to be gargamel

Apr 25, 08 3:44 pm  · 

there's also an architphil! :)

i remember seeing something about the skatepark thing in dwell... or maybe metropolis... i thought that it had already been built...

Apr 25, 08 4:04 pm  · 

here's the project website for paine's park

Apr 25, 08 4:08 pm  · 

us phils
we travel in packs

Apr 25, 08 4:12 pm  · 
John Cline

I love how the Paine's Park website mentions the city wide WiFi no less than twice. What a huge disaster that has been.

Apr 25, 08 5:39 pm  · 

ya in Santa fe they somehow banned skateboarding, roller skating and hacky sack on the downtown area, then they built a really shitty park with no PI or transition.

i learned to skate at LOVE park when i lived there, it was allowed to skate then it want now they want to tear it down and make it a real skatepark? hmm

the company i work for we have done the the Albuquerque park and the Chandler park

and back in Europe where my family lives they have skate parks/ramps in every village behind most youth-houses (places where 14 and up go to drink on wend., fri. and sat. for up to 75% discounts)

Apr 25, 08 5:42 pm  · 
John Cline

btw, you can't deny the beauty and simplicity of a wall crowned with glass...

Apr 25, 08 5:43 pm  · 

things to consider are hand rails distances between double sets of stairs. and transition walls are always nice... and nice gaps in site plans with proper run to get speed.

Apr 25, 08 5:44 pm  · 

why would they tear down a perfectly good park to make it a skate park? there are other places to put a skate park without removing a spot that people like the way it is

Apr 25, 08 5:47 pm  · 

ya it is a excellent skate park the way it is.

Apr 25, 08 5:58 pm  · 

i've only lived here 2 years now, but i used to remember it being a popular skate spot. i never really see anyone there skating, have they completely stopped that?

i am only there during the day at work, so i wasnt sure if it was used that way on the weekends or at night

Apr 25, 08 6:01 pm  · 

the philly police went all gestapo against skaters in love park in 2003/04 and started arresting kids.

there is a skate park under the highway by the river in south philly somewhere...

Apr 25, 08 6:25 pm  · 

FDR Skate Park, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Par
skater made skate park

good thing i left before the police crack down only to run into another one later

spending a life time being chased by authority does something to you...

Apr 25, 08 6:47 pm  · 

Not the best picture but I respected him for trying.

They also banned playing music in Rittenhouse Park and ARRESTED musicians for a while too. I think they stopped doing that...

To get away from my Philly-centric posts and get back on topic - I think there are two distinct issues that we're dealing with - physically defacing public property (from skateboarders & etc.) and the issue of social perception of place (homeless sleeping on benches & etc.).

For the first issue, personally, if it is a public space the materials should be durable enough to handle all kinds of transport/entertainment/activity. Isn't "pretentious public space" an oxymoron?

In terms of trying to change social perception of a specific place by making physical changes to exclude certain activities or people, I think there are better ways to spend the money. I.e. instead of spending money to prevent the homeless to sleep there, can't they spend more money in preventing people to become homeless in the first place? Or to fund programs to help them get back on their feet?

Apr 25, 08 6:53 pm  · 

we have a wonderful skatepark in louisville, huge concrete area created by metro gov't specifically for skaters and just adjacent to our waterfront park.

too bad we didn't get phase ii, cuz stanley saitowitz had designed a kickass building for restrooms/concessions which accommodated skating OVER the building. i would have loved to have seen it.

i did a skatepark design a few years ago that also hasn't yet gotten built. maybe someday.

BUT, i have had issues with skaters when they commandeer spaces in which they 1) cause danger to pedestrians or disruption of traffic, or 2) damage to property.

1)skaters get in their personal headspace and pedestrians often become invisible or inconsequential. kids, especially, may not know to watch for flying boards or people when they're playing in public parks.

there is a plaza here louisville from which skaters love to jump down the steps onto the sidewalk adjacent to MAIN STREET - probably our most trafficked street during a good part of any day. accidents have been caused.

2) we've all see granite with its upper corners ground off. we've all seen wrecked concrete. we've all seen formerly painted steel with most of its paint and galvanized coating scraped off. this is not a proper use of public OR private space.

Apr 25, 08 9:32 pm  · 

Steven, re: 2)

I can understand the argument that skateboarding on public property on a main thoroughfare can be dangerous to pedestrians. No arguing there (although in 15+ years of skating, I've never - not one time - seen a pedestrian even be touched).

BUT - why does "granite with its upper corners ground off" not proper use of space? Do the designers and owners of these spaces seriously think that damage isn't a part of owning a property that exists in public space?

You're a nice guy and I respect you a lot, but I see this from designers all the time - inflicting THEIR beliefs on how something SHOULD work, rather than letting the users decide.

Apr 26, 08 12:49 am  · 

slantsix -

knowingly invoking damage on public or private property is selfish activity and akin to vandalism. how is you taking the corners off of a stone bench in the front of my building any different from you skating over the top of my car and leaving your tracks?

the designers' beliefs to which you're referring are not just ego but more likely projections of the desires of their clients - those footing the bill for the materials and workmanship in the job. i can assure you, as an architect for many public park projects, that damage to public improvements hurts the ability of a cash-strapped parks dept to serve the public.

replacing handrails that have been skated on is a cost, redesigning and construction handrails more vandal-resistant so that they sustain less damage in the future is a cost. wouldn't it be great if this tax-funded public agency didn't have to accept responsibility for individuals' misuse of their facilities (this being the same agency that has spent $1m+ on a skate park)?

i've had similar discussions here with people who think tagging/graffitti is their right. i understand the desire to want to pitch it as communication, a different kind of social behavior, art, etc - and i've appreciated graffitti art in appropriate contexts - but, ultimately, if it's destructive, i'm conservative enough to believe that it's indefensible.

Apr 26, 08 7:44 am  · 

Surprised that no-one has cited Iain Borden's book Skateboarding, Space and the City: Architecture and the Body

Apr 26, 08 9:12 am  · 

The reality is that you can draft a floor plan with every chair pushed into the table correctly, but that is not reality, and never will be. The chairs will be moved and will get scratched and might even go missing or get replaced. Taking into account the anticipated REAL use of a space could possibly make everybody happy - and that's what some landscape architects are trying to do. It's too bad that we're so late to the game.

Here's a classic example: a company designing a new clothespeg took into account the way the peg TASTED because they know that people put them in their mouths, even if that's not part of the function.

I know that everybody here knows all this already, but I think it's important to have this dialogue.

Apr 26, 08 3:07 pm  · 

I agree -- as long as we're not deluding ourselves that vandalism is now the social norm. . .

Apr 27, 08 2:22 am  · 

that all makes sense and i agree withit slantsix

just because a skateboarder wants to skate somewhere, doesnt mean they have the right to, or that its the designers fault for not having it able to handle skating on everything

if a client doesnt want there to be skating there, why should he be forced to pay to make it skate-proof? why cant skaters respect where they are asked not to skate?

"Do the designers and owners of these spaces seriously think that damage isn't a part of owning a property that exists in public space?"
-that is true to an extent, but if someone commissions a public space and doesnt want it to be a skate park, that is perfectly acceptable, and should be respected by skaters

in 15 years you have never seen a pedestrian touched? thats fine, but do you honestly believe it doesnt happen? i have been walking along the street and have a skateboard come flying by me as some kid falls after missing a trick he was trying. if it wasnt a problem, and if some skaters didnt act like they were the only ones there and gave no regard for avoiding pedestrians, this wouldnt be talked about. pedestrians constantly have to get out of the way of skaters and skaters constantly have to get out of the way of pedestrians. more care should be taken into where people skate. it should be safe for all, not just right next to a certain transit stop.

Apr 27, 08 11:31 am  · 

I agree that it would be a finer world if every publicly placed architectural and hardscape element were prepared to be used as part of the 'boarder's environment, without damage. I guess this would involve steel edges let into every horizontal "grinding" surface ?

I used to work with a young man, who told me in passing of a day when he and friends were up on Potrero Hill with their boards. Someone lost their board and it rolled away and hit a lady a couple of blocks down. Did they go to see if she was injured ? No, they waited until she was gone before retrieving the skateboard. . .

'Boarders and aggressive urban cyclists clearly pride themselves on "getting through" without contact. But that doesn't mean it doesn't happen.

It's clear where the responsibility lies, isn't it ?

Apr 27, 08 2:36 pm  · 

I spent last week making this little urban bench -- a "smokers' bench" in front of a clean-and-sober coffee house in San Francisco. Many comments concerned how to prevent people from sleeping on it, or damaging it. I don't expect it to enjoy a very long life in any event, but it will probably have a divider armrest added to it soon.

Other urban benches in town have been removed, simply to avoid giving sleeping place to homeless persons. Everybody loses. . .

Apr 27, 08 3:00 pm  · 

that's a beautiful little urban intervention SDR... was it done guerrilla style without approval from the city? i've always wanted to do something similar...

the bench is in front of an urban shopping center just down the street from my house in downtown st. petersburg, florida... surprisingly there isn't a divider armrest... but notice the no loitering sign in the background... what's the purpose of an urban bench other than loitering? i think that they only consider loitering if you're homeless...

Apr 27, 08 5:22 pm  · 

Apparently so !

Yes, we just forged ahead without permits.

The bench frame was assembled using polyurethane glue. The pressure-treated posts that go into the soil are tripled into footings 12" below grade, and rest on a brick laid flat; two of these posts are glued (with a tempered masonite gusset) to horizontal 2x4s that are tightly wedged into the opening in the concrete. Other legs are bolted to the pavement.

The seat and back panels were discarded cedar sauna duckboards (we surmise); I trimmed them with VG fir and screwed them to the frame with SS trim-head screws.

The tree (a primrose) is three years old and has grown 5 feet in that time. It blew a bit off-plumb in a winter storm, when the ground was soaked. We soaked the soil again and pushed the tree back, strapped to a pole that in turn is cabled to an uphill parking sign pole (out of frame).

Apr 27, 08 7:23 pm  · 

DC Shoes offered the city 1 million dollars towards rehabbing Love Park if they would allow skating but the city said no.

Half the fun of Lovepark is getting chased. city hall too.

Apr 29, 08 1:04 am  · 

SDR! That's absolutely fantastic! Reminds me of a much more high quality version of the user-made furnishings you see around SOHO.

[One note that the LA in me HAS to comment on: the practice varies, but you should be supporting the tree a little higher than I see here--about 4 - 6 inches below the first limb--which would help with those storms.]

Apr 29, 08 7:19 am  · 

what was the rehabbing that was going to be done induct?
just general rennovations? or upgrades
seems in reasonable shape now

were they going to make it skate friendly, like upgrading everything to be more durable?

Apr 29, 08 9:20 am  · 

good discussion

false pedestrian fear is over bloated, kind of extreme ex. but it is like the cop who abuses his power and says he does it because he needs to feed his family, just doing my job.

a little waxed edges/ground/sanded edges, nothing wrong with that
when is the last time you heard of a lawsuit against a property owner for a fallen skater?

but get this

Tempe AZ , mccains place, all American city. they have a "Homeless Ordinance" that passed into law. it says:

No sitting for more than 15 min
No sleeping.
No organizing of personal things.

all subject to arrest and time in Sheriff joe arpaio's tent city (an known human rights violator who is not currently going neighborhood to neighborhood pulling over people of color in a racial profiling sweep to catch people with 'no proper paperwork'

Apr 29, 08 12:04 pm  · 

what could a fallen skater sue an owner over? if he fell skating, he cant really blame the owner if its not a skate park, can he?

i agree with the no sleeping
thats just annoying

i dont think the pedestrian fear is false. have you ever tried to sit and eat lunch or something and have a bunch of skaters come flying by doing tricks right next to you. some times they dont even notice or acknowledge that anyone else is there
no one is fearing for their lives, but who is going to win in a collision, the person flying around on his skateboard or the person just sitting there or standing there?

if you are driving a car, you need to avoid pedestrians and give them the right of way. if you are on a bike, you need to avoid pedestrians walking, not the other way around. if you are on a skateboard, you need to do the same.

Apr 29, 08 12:13 pm  · 

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