Extract of a City Lab article on the Power of the Moveable Chair
“…In his classic 1980 study of the use of public spaces in New York City, William H. Whyte and his team of researchers used cameras to watch people and understand how they used the public places in the city. One of the takeaways from the film footage was that people like to sit in public places, and, far more fascinatingly, that if given the option they will almost always move chairs before they sit in them.
In his film, The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces, Whyte shows this phenomenon in action.
“In municipalities there’s the sense that if it’s not bolted down, it will move beyond the park landscape. Well, we see all over the city those little foldup chairs and they’re not bolted down, they’re not even chained,” Price says, referring to the chairs added to pedestrianized plazas and street corners in Manhattan, such as Times Square. “They’re on all the intersections throughout the whole Manhattan landscape right now and they don’t seem to be walking away.”
“I just refuse to let [the possibility of theft] be the guiding force to deter us from trying,” she says, adding that RFID chips will be installed in the furniture to help prevent theft, or at least track wayward chairs down when they’re moved too far away.
“And so far, designers seem to support the idea. The deadline for submissions is at the end of the month, but Price says she’s already received submissions from all over the Western hemisphere.
Price says the idea behind the competition is both to create an opportunity for designers to see their work actually built and installed in a real-world setting, but also to encourage other cities to think about better ways to serve their populations through good design in public spaces…”