Urban design magazine

Public spaces

The role of street furniture in public spaces

Image of Casablanca tram platform - Photograph by R&A
Casablanca, tram platform - Photograph by R&A

The role of street furniture is taken very seriously in all of the urban space design projects undertaken by the Aurel Agency.

But, when does street furniture enter into the design process? From the very beginning or gradually as the project develops?

After dividing public spaces between pedestrians, cars, public transport and bicycles, managing the different flows and functions, adapting the project to the technical problems of levelling and sanitation, the moment arrives to choose materials for surfaces, consider green spaces, imagine the lighting and select street furniture, that is to say, the colours, design and position of posts, barriers, benches, lights and bins.

Street furniture is quickly taken into account so that it can become an integral element that helps structure and enhance than project rather than being an afterthought. When the line between furniture and architecture or furniture and the ground is blurred, furniture is no longer really an object.

Image of Casablanca central market tram stop - Photograph by R&A

The tram stop at Casablanca’s central market is perfectly integrated into urban spaces – Photograph by R&A

Street furniture has a functional role, but is also a vehicle for conveying identity. Today, furniture in public places is subject to high expectations in terms of quality as it is considered to be an effective tool for urban planning. The very definition of the term ‘street furniture’ reveals a desire for harmony, heterogeneity and belonging. Creating useful objects that make the lives of citizen easier and more beautiful.

However, for me, too often street furniture has an overly specific use that leaves little space for wider questions about nature of these uses. For example, bollards are used to manage the flow of cars and to stop vehicles from parking. They carry strong functional constraints. Would it not be better to ask how pedestrians cross the road? How they walk? How cars move around? Or, what role benches can play in encouraging people to meet and exchange?

Street furniture designers must be able to invent, experiment with new techniques and come up with new concepts. Just as an artist encourages us to question the world around us, so the street furniture designer must offer innovative solutions and invent new possibilities with the aim of improving our quality of life.

Key words