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Livable urban spaces. public benches and the quality of daily life

Published in Scientific Papers. Series B. Horticulture, Vol. LVI
Written by Alexandru MEXI, Ioana TUDORA

The contemporary urban politics are facing an important paradigm shift. The quality of life became the central topic of new development plans and the public space represents the cornerstone of urban planning. In this context landscape architecture plays an important role and landscape “soft” methods are replacing the “hard” urban design instruments. Our paper will analyse an apparently dull and simple object – the bench. Starting from a series of observation on Bucharest urban design we will try to define the “perfect bench” starting from some basic qualities that this object, apparently banal, should accomplish in order to assure a real quality of urban space and a pleasant experience: comfort, security, shelter, design, location are some of the characteristics that are guiding our analyse. The study is based on participatory and non-participatory observations and questionnaires realised in several Bucharest’s public spaces in order to understand how people are perceiving these qualities and how good or bad design can influence the public life and the success of a landscape project. The observations and questionnaires are structured around a matrix inspired by Jan Gehl’s analyse of public spaces quality [1]. The study shows the lack of concern with quality in public space design in Bucharest. Formalism, stereotypes, overloading with useless, ugly, uncomfortable and aggressive urban furniture as well as a low quality design of the overall space determine a dissatisfaction concerning the city’s public spaces. In order to enjoy the urban experience and to create successful public gardens, parks or squares a special attention should be given to a simple, yet complex object as the public bench.

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