Stationbench - Haarlem

/work/stationbench/

Sometimes the answer to an enrichment of the public space lies in a simple addition.

The Stationsquare in Haarlem is such a public place with the need for a richer experience.

During my research of the square, by looking well, take the right photographs and most importantly by talking with/interviewing it's users, I discovered that there was the need for a more logical sitting area. With logical I mean closer to the busstops.

This was just one of the countless elements that did not work on this particular square. I chose this as a beginning and my hunch turned out well.

Looking at the already available elements of the square, I chose to search for one of the already present elements of the square that could facilitate part of my seating solution.

The poles you see on the pictures were an immediate eye-catcher. People were already sitting on them, and by interviewing those people, it turned out that for them the poles were at the ideal distance from the busstops. Sadly, the poles were cold to the bone, too high for a comfortable sit and they are a 1-person seat. Not social and not 'gezellig'.

Poles were my logical choice. Ideas arose and I couldn't wait to start testing them out on the square, 1:1 tests are the most fun!

Eventually I performed three tests. First of all, a model to check if people would use the benches at all. The bench is connected to the pole by just placing the open end over the pole. This gives the bench the ability to turn around the pole, using the stainless-steel poles as a pivoting point.

After a lot of positive feedback from both commuters and bus-drivers I was persistent to continue and vind a good solution for the benches.

Soon after, I designed a bench with about the same qualities, because the shape was ok for now, but I changed to a better wood for prototyping, a new way of connecting to the pole and I added wheels to promote pivoting the bench around the poles. I couldn't explain why, but with the bench version with wheels, the users were less prone to actually move the bench to a different position.

And again, more positive feedback and encouragement from both commuters and bus-drivers. I was ready for the third test.

Test 3, time for a social test. This time I used the model from the second test, but with a fixed connection with the ground instead of wheels. This turned out to work better. The most important factor in this third test was that there were three benches put next to each other to see how the social interaction would be promoted. More than 1 person could sit on one bench, and if a group would come, they could pivot the benches towards eachother and effectively create more of a social area where the users could face one-another.

The idea worked a bit as expected, people would seek contact with each other, however, the main conversational topic was the bench itself. And I am not sure if the social interactions would've taken place if the benches wouldn't have been looking like a prototype student-project.

This project is destined to get a part #2, I feel obligated to improve on this idea and present it to the local government.

Local city-magazine 'HRLM' has written an article about this project:
http://www.hrlm-online.nl/bankjes-testen-op-het-stationsplein

photographic research and interviews immediately motivated me to work on the seating space - the commuters told me that there were benches, but they were placed in a niche in the station-building but this was too far away from the bus stops and many commuters couldn't read the electronic signs from over there
the only object that was at a good range from the bus stops were these slightly-too-high steel poles
a first sketch, designed to use the poles as a pivot point to facilitate the benches, as an expansion to the object the commuters themselves had already discovered
first real-life test, immediately a satisfied traveler, in the background you can see the electronic signs, they are perfectly readable from this distance
the area is in front of the stations secondary exit and has a good distance from both the station and the bus stops
the second real-life test, immediately another traveler that sat down, however, the wheels that I added to promote pivoting of the bench wasn't used as much in practice as I had expected and was somehow moved around less than the version without wheels
impression with the buses on the background, the front-sides of the buses are always facing the benches and can be well-seen
some people just prefer to stand, and there is nothing wrong with that
another real-life test, this time with three benches at once to try and promote a configurable social space, one can turn the bench away for a more private sitting moment, or turn two benches towards each other to share the space with one another
while testing, two journalists from the Haarlem city-magazine 'HRLM' interview a bus driver about who made the benches, he pointed at me and they decided to publish an article about my bench on their website, a link to the article can be found in the main description text for this project
during my last few tryouts the local government had road-blocks put up to cover the insanely slippery glass panes in the sidewalk, yes, the benches are not the only thing that need attention on this square
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