Add requirement. Repeat until original goal lost.

Camden Bench Banner

Right, time for a quick tangent from music, games, technology and programming. It’s design-related, don’t worry. Introducing the Camden Bench, quite possibly the nadir of seating and certainly a depressing symbol of modern life. Cities and councils have long since been using public seating designed to resist sleeping – bus stops with narrow, sloping seats that only mutant lizard people could find comfortable, benches with spikes or excessive arm rests. Hell, even metered seating. None of which is surprising given we live in a world where people can try to pass laws making it illegal to feed homeless people.

So against all that the Camden Bench looks positively tame. But let’s look at it from a design perspective shall we?
Camden Bench

From the producer’s website:

The Camden bench evolved from designs developed for a bespoke project for Camden Borough Council. The bench is designed with contemporary street seating needs in mind including resisting criminal and anti-social behaviour.

So it’s a bench with the express goals of deterring undesirable behaviour. What behaviour, you might ask? The hard, uneven surface makes it extremely difficult to sleep on. The solid construction means there’s nowhere to stash drugs. Narrow recesses mean you can keep your bags behind your legs, safe from thieves. Angled surfaces mean litter cannot accumulate. All sounds good, no?

Let’s look at it another way. Specifically, the fact that it utterly fails at being a bench. The hard, uneven surface makes it extremely uncomfortable to sit on. The solid construction means it will be freezing cold. Narrow recesses are too small to keep more than the tiniest possessions, meaning you’ll likely keep your bag on top, easily accessible for thieves. Angled surfaces mean you can’t sit a drink next to you.

It’s quite telling that the marketing material proudly lists all the ways they’ve removed all the comforts and convenience of public seating from public seating. In trying to magically make homeless people, thieves and vandals go elsewhere, they’ve actually done one worse than just not providing seating. I looked at the technical specs and these things weigh in at nearly two tonnes of concrete and steel. People who’ve lived in Durham will know what I mean when I say this bench is the Dunelm House of public seating.

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