I Might Just Sit This One Out


Everyone likes a bit of a sit down, don’t they? The above captures a lass doing that in the busy Bourke Street Mall in Melbourne as she lolls about on a piece of public art.

A moment of reflection, a brief pause, a small comma in an otherwise lengthy sentence (okay, you get the drift). The point is, we like seats, and we like public seats. I’m not going to dwell on the whole ‘we like looking at people and being with people and that is why we go to public parks and sit aside from just to find respite’ thing here, suffice to say that that is true – albeit long winded.

What I do want to focus on however is planners and designers who decide where seats will go, and why. In my own wonderings around and about, I have witnessed all manner of seating in frankly obscure places, leading me to believe that seats can be as pointless as carrying an extra tube but not knowing how to fix a flat. In short, it’s just for show.

A seat in a pointless place says ‘We, as a Council, care and we offer comfort and respite and look here – a seat for you to spend some time on’. That’s what this seat looks like:

pb 1

If you were sitting on the seat, you would have the lovely Yarra river behind you, a smooth, easy bike and pedestrian path, er, behind you, and some really lovely old bluestone brickwork, um, behind you. And what would your view be?

pb 2

This: six lanes of traffic. Ahhh, the serenity.

Further along the Yarra river bike path (which I really can’t fault), is this utterly odd arrangement of seating:

yarra 1

It is honestly as though it was arranged for bickering siblings or bored couples. What’s such a pity is that the view from both seats is splendid:

yarra 2


I can’t help but wonder if the people who installed it merely read their directions incorrectly and they are meant to in a ‘V’ shape, but both looking out to the river, and indeed, each other.

Here’s a lovely nighttime snap of a lonely bench with 6 lanes of traffic in front of it. What is more perverse is that this is on the edge of one of Melbourne’s most splendid parks – the Fitzroy Gardens. Would you rather face traffic or people and trees?

night bench

I know I am saving the best for last here, but this is too delicious. In the university ‘courtyard’ (and I use the term advisedly), near to where I live, there is this inviting, wonderful public bench amidst this hallowed seat of learning:

uni bench

Seriously, would anyone want to sit here? Would anyone want to even walk through here?

The world is not a perfect place, I know, but truly, could we not spend a little more time thinking about the placement of these public seats? Is it really so difficult to think about what you, as a person, would like to look at in the real world rather than what looks good on a plan?

Amongst all this bafflement, it was nice to notice the ducks on the way home and remember that when I ride my bike, I’m always sitting comfortably and the scenery is a moveable feast.



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