The above photo is the first on a list of benches from “14 Most Creatively Perfect Benches and Seats from All Around the World,” on the website Postize. The list of benches has gone viral, if not postal.
Since I cringed my way through these fascinating benches a while ago, they have boomeranged back at me through email from local citizens interested in new park benches here in Providence. I am concerned about pressure to go wacko in the redesign of one of the city’s sweetest little parks, Prospect Terrace, on Congdon Street. Replacing its old benches is high on the agenda, and they should be replaced – with new versions of the classic bench style.
All of the benches that have gone viral are creative, some of them combine creativity and usefulness. Some of them combine one or both of those qualities with beauty. But most of them combine either or both of those qualities with a sort of sculptural dissonance with their surroundings that would under- mine the beauty of Prospect Terrace. The best of them are way too expensive and most of them look like maintenance nightmares, and some have safety issues. Some of them look comfortable and some others quite the opposite. But I am not sure that comfort, or at least too much of it, is high on the list of objectives for city benches in Providence!
The old-style benches reliably combine utility, efficiency and beauty – and, yes, creativity. These days, with difference for the sake of difference as the conventional wisdom, a certain dare I say boldness characterizes the strategy of going with the benches we all know and love.
I am sure most of the dozens of people who recently received the viral benches list probably think so, too, especially if they live on Congdon Street. Or if the bench were to be installed in front of their own house. Of course, most of them will insist otherwise because of the overwhelming ambient pressure in our culture to be “cool.”
Sorry. Most of these benches are fun to look at and maybe fun to sit on but for how long? Go with the tried and true. That is often the best strategy.