Street Furniture: How to Create a Better Urban Space
Street furnishings are an integral part of urban design. In fact, they are one of the most important elements because they create a place for sitting, eating, meeting, and socializing. They can range from seats to road signs and lamps. Although they usually serve a specific function, street furnishings can also be aesthetic and an artistic feature in the landscape that adds a welcoming touch to the space and invites people to visit the public space more often. It is important that street furnishings be well placed so that they can make the lives of citizens easier, especially since they can have a big impact on the urban landscape.
Here is how you can create a better urban space through street furniture:
1- Choose suitable locations for better functionality:
Street furnishings hold great values in the public realm. This is why it is important to choose the most suitable locations for the furnishings to keep the space functional, safe, and accessible. For example, benches should be placed in all spaces that witness heavy pedestrian traffic, especially near transit stops and plazas, as they allow pedestrians to rest and socialize. Waste bins should also be visible and placed appropriately to allow people to use them and minimize trash in the urban space. For example, they should be placed in crowded areas, near shops and homes, and especially near benches where people mostly meet, eat, and drink. However, designers should often keep in mind the comfort of pedestrians here, as they should keep the waste bins at a good distance from these seating areas to keep any kind of unpleasant smell and insects from disturbing the citizens.
2- Keep safety and security in mind:
Public spaces are for everyone, which means that the elderly, the disabled, children, and teenagers all use them. This is why it is important to keep the safety and security aspects in mind when designing an urban landscape. The urban furniture should be safe for all users, free of sharp edges and protruding bolts and attached to the ground to prevent any injury or accidents. It is also important to take into consideration lighting and accessibility. For example, lighting and colors provide greater visibility for people, allowing them to see where each street furniture is located, thus preventing any kind of accidents. Signage is another way to keep pedestrians safe, as they can guide people and prevent them from getting lost. In a park for children, on the other hand, it is also vital that the safest types of furnishings are placed, keeping visibility for the parents in mind to allow them to keep their eyes on their children.
3- Add features based on the cultural background of the area:
To create a remarkable and unforgettable streetscape, designers often add materials and furnishings based on the cultural and historical background of the neighborhood or the area. This type of furnishings can create a unique place for the pedestrians and for the passersby, as they can show the heritage of the place and tell the story of the people. For example, if you are designing a modern street, you can choose modern street furnishings and elements, such as solar streetlamps, smart bins, and urban planters with built in benches to allow citizens to enjoy the fresh air and relax and to bring nature into the neighborhood. The best strategy when choosing furniture is to create a look that conveys the identity and character of the space. For example, in traditional or historical neighborhoods, you can use sculptures or street arts to showcase the heritage and character of the space.
4- Use the best materials for sustainability:
Using the appropriate materials is considered an essential part when designing streetscapes, as they ensure that the street furnishings that are used are sturdy enough and can withstand everyday urban use. Quality street furniture can make the public space a safe place for pedestrians and can have a positive impact on their wellbeing. Because the constant use of street furnishings can damage them, it is essential to use the best materials for better sustainability. Concrete, for example, has become a very popular material choice recently, as it can be used to create the most beautiful and modern designs and it is quite robust and extremely durable. Recycled plastic, wood, and steel are also other examples of materials that can be used in urban spaces. They are sustainable and environmentally friendly. However, it is always best to take into consideration the context, as sometimes materials should be decided based on the weather conditions or frequency of vandalism to avoid risks of fire and crimes among many others.
5- Conduct frequent maintenance:
When deciding which materials and designs of street furniture to use, designers always opt for the best materials to make the furnishings as low-maintenance as possible. However, due to high usage, they will still need maintenance occasionally. If the materials chosen are of high quality, maintenance could often be easy and cost-effective, especially in cases of constant vandalism. Maintenance would ensure that the furniture is always in good condition, as well as ensure the safety of pedestrians. In this case, the street furnishings that might need to be maintained include traffic signs, trash bins, lamps, sculptures, public art, seats, etc. Painted benches, for example, can have chipped paint after a while, which is why it is important to repaint them from time to time to keep the landscape attractive and fresh. Lamps, on the other hand, might need to be changed while words and illustrations on signs might need to be rewritten.
Fun Designs Enhance the Streetscape
Street furniture often has a very specific use in the urban landscape. It is used to guide people, allow them to interact and socialize, and most importantly, reduce traffic and hazards. Effective and quality urban furnishings can make the lives of the citizens easier and their overall experience of the public space richer. The first few aspects that enter the designers’ minds when planning streetscapes are the safety, functionality, creativity, and sustainability of the furnishings. However, it is also essential to think outside the box in order to keep the design fun and playful to create a more inviting and comfortable space not only for kids, but also for adults.