The second normative aspect of street furniture is the design of individual pieces and their arrangement in space. Structures can be movable or fixed (i.e. bolted down), and either designed for a wide range of uses or to discourage particular uses.
Figure 13. A man sleeps on the lip of the fountain at Alexanderplatz © Mary Dellenbaugh
Figure 14. This bench in Stuyvesant Park in NYC has middle rails to prevent uses such as sleeping or lying © Mary Dellenbaugh
Figure 15. Bryant Park in central New York City is an excellent example of a flexible public space. Chairs and tables can be moved and rearranged to make a wide variety of seating combinations along the tree-lined paths © Mary Dellenbaugh
Figure 16. Communicative bench groups are placed in the highly aestheticized Pearl Street area of downtown Boulder Colorado © Mary Dellenbaugh
Figure 17. Flexible, hybrid forms, like this long, organically branched bench in Palma, Mallorca, create a large number of varied seating opportunities © Mary Dellenbaugh
Urban furniture’s design is based on expectations about body types, body measurements and physical ability. Benches, for example, are set up for specific use cases (i.e. seating capacity for three “ideal users”) which have a limited range of body types and shapes in mind. The norming of physical objects in urban public space necessarily includes certain persons and excludes others. Seat areas which ergonomically curve down and backwards can be difficult for people with mobility issues to get out of, or be uncomfortable for persons with longer or shorter legs. Benches with chair-like seats, which curve slightly upwards on both sides to delimit individual users’ places set forth an “ideal” hip width. Street furniture’s design can also include or exclude those with mobility limitations. These physical norms are then reinforced as design elements are repeated throughout the city.
Figure 18. A bench-table combination at the Pirna central bus station in Saxony © Mary Dellenbaugh
© Mary Dellenbaugh
Figure 19. This picnic table in the Boulder suburbs requires one to be able-bodied enough to either step over the bench or swing one’s legs over the bench to sit facing the table, which could be an issue for those with problems in the lower back, hips or legs © PJ Dellenbaugh
Figure 20. Flexible structures are open to a variety of uses, such as in this example of fixed seating from the Maybachufer in Berlin © Mary Dellenbaugh
In addition to the physical structure of individual elements, the arrangement of elements in space is also a key aspect of street furniture. Arrangements can be communicative or solitary. They can provide a place to sit while enjoying the view or while watching the kids play on the playground. The position, orientation and arrangement of benches in particular determine the orientation of bodies in space, and the feature or features of the landscape that those bodies will be oriented towards. This is particularly the case for fixed seating. The supply-driven nature of these types of street furniture means that the user is not the one who makes the decision how close he or she would like to be to any other piece of street furniture, what he or she is looking at, or any other decision in the orientation or arrangement of the street furniture that he or she is using – these decisions are made by the person or entity that designed or otherwise provided the street furniture.
Figure 21. A bistro table has been placed in a gazebo to provide a missing function. Outside Boulder, CO. © PJ Dellenbaugh
Figure 22. Hacking urban furniture. These benches, which are usually arranged in an evenly-spaced row facing the same direction, have been gathered together to make a communicative group. Volkspark Humboldthain, Berlin-Wedding © Mary Dellenbaugh
When street furniture is “imposed” on the urban public, it creates a ubiquitous backdrop for everyday life which enforces official narratives about how and by whom public space is supposed to be used. A critical view to urban street furniture should ask who gets to use, change and adapt public space and to what end(s)? And why is the provision of street furniture supply-driven? What other voices could be involved in the decision process surrounding which structures are built and how? How do designers or planners know if structures are missing or enough?
The coproduction of new use opportunities in public space could be emancipatory, and real-life interventions in Germany could involve groups that are typically not involved or are actively excluded from these processes (i.e. refugees, the homeless, senior citizens). The cooption of the disciplinary aspect of the organization of public space and the power to decide which uses happen in which places can/could be a powerful form of resistance against the disciplinary force of the state and the conforming power of the market.
Figure 23. This bench in Warschauer Straße was clearly used in a way that did not conform to its structural form © Mary Dellenbaugh
Cited Works & Further Reading
Bourdieu, Pierre. “Social Space and Symbolic Power.” Sociological Theory 7, no. 1 (1989): 14–25.
De Soto, Hermine G. “(Re) Inventing Berlin: Dialectics of Power, Symbols and Pasts, 1990–1995.” City & Society 8, no. 1 (1996): 29–49.
Dellenbaugh, Mary. “Landscape Changes in East Berlin after 1989: A Comprehensive Grounded Theory Analysis through Three Case Studies.” Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, 2014.
Holm, Andrej. “Gentrification in Berlin: Neue Investitionsstrategien Und Lokale Konflikte.” In Die Besonderheit Des Städtischen: Entwicklungslinien Der Stadt(soziologie), edited by Heike Herrmann, Carsten Keller, Reiner Neef, and Renate Ruhne, 213–32. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag, 2011.
Jacobs, Jane. The Death and Life of Great American Cities. New York: Vintage Books, 1961.
Wilson, James Q., and George L. Kelling. “Broken Windows.” The Atlantic Monthly, 1982. www.manhattan-institute.org/pdf/_atlantic_monthly-broken_windows.pdf.
 Lefebvre, quoted in Hermine G. De Soto, “(Re) Inventing Berlin: Dialectics of Power, Symbols and Pasts, 1990–1995,” City & Society 8, no. 1 (1996): 33; See also Mary Dellenbaugh, “Landscape Changes in East Berlin after 1989: A Comprehensive Grounded Theory Analysis through Three Case Studies” (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, 2014), 85.
 See Pierre Bourdieu, “Social Space and Symbolic Power,” Sociological Theory 7, no. 1 (1989): 14–25.
 For example as was the case in New York under Rudy Guiliani, following the “Broken Windows” theory: James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling, “Broken Windows,” The Atlantic Monthly, 1982, www.manhattan-institute.org/pdf/_atlantic_monthly-broken_windows.pdf.
 Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities (New York: Vintage Books, 1961), chaps. 2–6.
 See Andrej Holm, “Gentrification in Berlin: Neue Investitionsstrategien Und Lokale Konflikte,” in Die Besonderheit Des Städtischen: Entwicklungslinien Der Stadt(soziologie), ed. Heike Herrmann et al. (Wiesbaden: VS Verlag, 2011), 213–32.
 i.e. the RIght to the City