Project 3: Social-Ecological Space and Materiality: Rethinking the Public Bench

Considering Social Space

When asked what a social space is, I think of any physical environment that can have personal interaction. However, I think a social space can also be virtual, like in video games where players can talk and play against other players. If something was built for humans and is a platform for people to mingle virtually or physically, I believe it is a social space. If it’s purpose is for people to meet and hang out in or on, it is a social space. A catholic church, for example, is a social space because although it’s about personal prayer, it is inevitable not to talk to the person next to you, or that in which you came with, since that is apart of the ceremony. A social space can also be an object, such as a couch. It was designed for multiple people to sit together on and partake in some of the same activities. Human interaction isn’t a requirement for a social space though. If three people are siting on a couch watching TV and not talking or touching each other, I would still consider the couch and the room a social space. Even a bedroom, which is considered a personal space, can be a social space when friends or family are invited inside. I don’t think any space is not a social space. Anywhere a human can go is social.

You don’t need to be with people you know for a space to be social. A social space is an area that was intended for human interaction, whether that be through talking or even just making eye contact. I don’t believe their has to be a certain number of people for a space to be social. If a social space was made, but no one is in it, it is still a social space because it offers the opportunity for human exchanges and interactions. So even an open field is a social space because their is a possibility for humans to go and/or interact there. I believe this understanding of social space is not only for Americans and our culture.

Photographic Study: Public Benches & Social Interactions



Actions and body positions done on a bench.










Paper Explorations

The three sketches are of different body positions. On the bottom left are the measurements for each paper figure. These were determined by measuring myself and then converting the distance. For example, if my leg was 16 inches it would be measured for the paper figure as 1.4 inches.

Paper Figure Position Explorations:

3 paper figures

left two reading, right eating

Left two talking, right eating

left person reading, two on right meditating

left person sleeping, middle reading, right eating

left two people reading, right person meditating

people on ends sleeping, middle reading


Bench Ideas

Wire Explorations

After forming the outlines of figures in different sitting positions and then attaching them with pieces of thinner wire, my partner and I dunked it into soapy water so that the bubbles formed between the wire would give us inspiration for bench shapes.

Next, I tied thread around the wire figures to get more seat shape inspiration.

We presented our ideas to the class and we ended up pursuing a design that my partner had created. We were then supposed to make a paper prototype.

People can sit on the left two blocks, on the top block, and lay down on the two blocks on the right. Initially the idea had been that all these blocks were attached in this formation. However it gave me the idea of having separate pieces that could be moved around.

“Move It Around”

The intent of “Move It Around” is to change our understanding of a bench, which is often thought of as a stationary object, into something that can be moved around and manipulated by pedestrians. Our bench offers seats that can be arranged in different formations to accommodate how people want to sit. They are polygon shapes that are tethered to the ground so that they can be moved but not removed by pedestrians. People can stack them on top of each other to lean against, sit one person per polygon, or line them flat next to each other so that someone can lay down on them. If their is a group of four they can arrange them so that they can all be facing each other, while the two other shapes can be used by individual people or a group of two. Or the shapes could be left in a whole formation (like in the last photo) and people could do the same actions on the piece that they would do separately, ie. sitting, standing, laying. This bench would be made of plastic so that it would be waterproof and light weight.

My partner and I were taking too long designing the Rhino file and we realized we wouldn’t have enough time to 3D print it before our deadline. We decided to make it out of wood instead. I started sketching out the polygons onto the wood. Each shape had to have exactly the same side length and angle so that they would fit together. I realized that would take a lot of time, which I didn’t have, so I opted for simplifying the shape into a cube.

I used scrap plywood and measured out 36 2×2 inch squares. I chose the 2×2 inch size because it was 1 to 1 measurements. The seats in reality would be 2 feet high and wide.

Next I sanded every piece. The square on the left is sanded, and the right is not.

At first I sanded by using a crank to keep the piece in place and then I used sand paper to smooth over the edges. However I felt that wasn’t efficient so I used stationary sand paper and then ran the wood pieces over it. It took a while since I had so many pieces but I think the second method was faster.

I then started assembling the cubes using wood glue.

I didn’t close the cubes because in reality not having a bottom side would make them lighter and therefore easier to move around.

After assembling the boxes I was going to coat them in a natural bees wax solution so that they would have a warm colored finish and be waterproof. However, not all the sides on each box lined up so they looked a little sloppy. Plus you could see the glue. I decided I was going to cover the boxes.

I reused paper bags from Whole Foods to wrap around the boxes.

I used tape to attach the paper to the wood.

I tried to fold the edges as neatly as I could.

Then I tied six strings around a metal loop.

I got black foam board and looped the six strings through a needle. I punctured the needle through the center of the board. On the underside of the board was the metal loop and on the right side were the strings.

I then taped the string to the underside of each box. Therefore the boxes could be moved around but not removed from the board.

Differing box arrangements:


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