William Whyte (1988) carried out the research, collaborated with other designers and sociologists, on how people use urban space by filming people and analyzing the films. His research provided empirical evidence for designing good public space responsive to people’s need and preference. In his book, City: Rediscovering the Center, he explores various urban space elements such as seating, water, light, etc. The topic of this article is ‘chairs’ amongst many other forms of seating.
As Whyte noted, the adaptability of chairs makes them highly usable. People can adjust the position and location of chairs according to the weather, relationships with others, attitudes and preference of each individuals. Sometimes, adjusting chairs works as even very articulate language amongst people in the immediate space.
In the Tuilieries Garden in Paris, a couple of types of green metal chairs are provided for visitors. Those leaning on chairs, straight back with or without arm-rests chairs are scattered throughout the garden so that people can pick them up, move to where they want to stay and seat or lie on them as long as they want.
The following photos were taken in the last year’s summer. Looking at the variety of how people use the chairs was quite amusing. People choose their preferred positions and some of them almost build their own seating by combining the chairs according to their preferred seating posture, facing or not facing their friends, plants or the pond. Some groups of friends seat closely to each other, one of them look like telling the others an interesting story of the day. One family seat with enough distance to each other, one of them apparently having his face at the edge of the shade facing others who are having sunlight all over their body. All the subtle adjustments show how the adaptability of chairs work well with each relationship among the people and individual preferences.
One of my favourites is two girl’s postures, one of them is having her legs on the arm-rest of the chair leaning her side on the back of the chair, facing each other for their conversation whilst their bodies are facing opposite directions. Probably it won’t be comfortable for a long time, however, it could be the most appropriate way of seating for them at that moment with the help of ongoing adjustments. Also, this is how I seat myself often. click here for the picture