Monday, 17 March 2014

Friend or foe? Social and anti-social benches

My husband His Excellency has warned me that this post is going to open up some uncomfortable truths about benches.

His Excellency: The debate about social and anti-social benches is highly political. It could be the nail in the coffin of Benchsite. 

I don't think so, but I sort of see your point. On Benchsite most benches are presented as friendly or at least benign places. Today though, we're going to look at the good, the bad and the ugly, bench-wise.

Tamsin, a sweet local girl: I don't see how you can say anything bad about benches. Here is a very cute dog under a bench.

I know, Tamsin, but benches are not always cute. Some are hostile and unwelcoming.

Lord Brassica, Fifth Earl of Drizzly:  I say, this looks jolly uncomfortable. I'll send my man round to fix it.

Sorry, Lord B. The idea is to keep people off the bench, not to make them comfortable. 

Lord Brassica: How odd. Seems bloody inhospitable to me. 

That's the point though, Lord B. There are social benches. And then there are anti-social ones. Anti-social benches are generally designed to discourage people from using them. 

Lord Brassica: I say, this looks like a crime scene.

Yes, that's one way of looking at it. 

His Excellency: I suppose you're going to be totally predictable and say that benches are spaces for anti-social behaviour.

It has to be said: benches can be spaces for anti-social behaviour. 

But they're social places too.

A bench is a place to engage with your friends.

How you engage with them is up to you.

You can enjoy a lollipop together . . .

or talk through problems  . . .

. . . or sit together in silence.

Lord Brassica: These chaps seem to be facing the wrong way. 

His Excellency: Unless that's a one-way mirror and there's something extremely interesting on the other side.

On a city bench you can have a game with your Czech mate.

Lord Brassica: These people do not look particularly Czech to me.

Miggy: This is a pathetic attempt to make a joke, Seashell.  

OK, sorry. Can we move on now please? I'd like to say more about social benches and their role in supporting interaction. 

And I've got some bed benches to show you as well because, inevitably, benches can become beds.

Some people who study these things argue that it is the mark of success in a park if people fall asleep there. Why shouldn't people sleep on benches?

Other people argue that a bench in a public place is just there for short-term use, like resting your feet or having a chat. 

His Excellency (who is a philosopher): Here is a philosophical question: if the conversation collapses, will the bench still support you?   

His Excellency: And what if the bench itself collapses? Would it cause damage?

Lord Brassica: I say, mounting someone on a bench is not a thing you'd want to encourage. 

His Excellency: There is a whole debate about social and anti-social public space which we ought to be exploring. 

It can be argued that modern society has forced people into circumstances in which benches become homes.

His Excellency: This raises all kinds of questions about social responsibility and public space. 

Yes, some people are uncomfortable with the idea of people doing what they like in public places.

Lord Brassica:  Call me old fashioned but I hate to see damage done to public property.

This isn't damage though, Lord B. This is art!

Tamsin: There's something wonky going on though isn't there? 

You're right, Tamsin. These benches are the work of Jeppe Hein, a Danish designer who has created more than 40 Modified Social Benches. They've been sited in all kinds of public places across many countries since 2005.

Lord Brassica: Knock me over with a feather! So this chap creates these peculiar benches on purpose?

Yes, that's the point. These white benches all have something not quite right about them, which causes people to want to talk about them when they see them in public places.

His Excellency: Very clever indeed. By subverting expectations he gets people talking to each other. 

In The Netherlands there is a scheme to get a social bench on every street in the country. Social Sofa in Tilburg have designed the Social Sofa, a concrete and mosaic living room style outdoor bench, which people can decorate together to create a shared space in their own neighbourhood. These neighbours in Dordrecht chose to celebrate cats and fish in their shared space.

my photo, Houthavenplein, Dordrecht

Lord Brassica: Cats and fish? Shared space? There's far too much of that! 

Shared space reduces social isolation, Lord B. The social sofas are a great idea. Once you know about them, you'll see the Dutch ones tucked into little parks, streets, and playgrounds throughout the country.

Lord Brassica: Good heavens, what will become of private space? It's giving me a headache just thinking about it. I need to lie down.

Tamsin: So maybe we could roll along to the bed benches now?

OK, we'll put the puns to rest now.

And speaking of rest, here in the UK it's National Bed Month. The Sleep Council is trying to make us aware of um. . . beds. Since there is no equivalent Bench Council, I'm making do with Beds.

His Excellency: Is this relevant? 

Of course, because many benches are used as a place to sleep.

Tamsin: Ohhh, this little girl is soooooo cute! 

You don't have to be Sleeping Beauty to grab a quick kip on a bench.

Tamsin:  I love sleeping, I do. It's the reason I get up in the morning. 

Some designers and architects argue that sleeping areas are an important part of well-designed public spaces. 

A power nap in the park is a great pick-me-up in the working day.

Lord Brassica: Looks like this lad drank too much of that American stuff. Plays havoc with the teeth I hear. 

If there's no time to get to the park, you can grab forty winks on a bench along the street.

Lord Brassica:  Good heavens, what does this fellow think he's doing with his feet on the furniture? 

He's resting, Lord B. What's wrong with that?

Lord Brassica: Bad manners, what. The whole country has gone to the dogs.

His Excellency: Yes. Here's a chap half naked in a bus shelter.

That's you on our holiday last summer. You told me to go off and look at benches while you took a nap. 

His Excellency: I don't remember any holiday last summer. 

That's because you slept through most of it.

Miggy: Along the seafront there are some nice benches for a snooze.

Tamsin: Ohhhhh bless! I love seeing animals sleeping on benches. 

And indoors it's easy to find a bench to nod off on.

Tamsin: This little boy is sooooo cute! He reminds me of my son Isambard. 

Miggy: Nice name, Tam. Sounds historical.

Historically benches have always been used as beds. 

Here are Sleep and his half-brother Death dozing off many years ago.

His Excellency: Sleeping is like being dead only without the commitment. 

Lord Brassica:  The name Death is unfortunate. You wonder what the parents were thinking. Why not a good British name like Boy or Tuppy?

History, please.

His Excellency: When bombs were falling on London people curled up on benches in the tube stations.

Lord Brassica: I spent many nights in the cellar at Drizzly Manor. Jolly inconvenient, though we made the best of it by drinking the whole of the pre-war wine stock. There was a very nice claret if I remember rightly. Easy on the palate.

People still sleep on benches in the Tube. Here's someone having a quiet night at Bethnal Green.
Tamsin: These aren't proper beds though, are they? I thought this was going to be about cute bed benches.

Miggy: I thought this was going to be about social and anti-social behaviour.  

His Excellency. Yes. As an argument, it's as if all the benches have been removed and what's left is just the bare frame of the discussion.
Oh dear. 

Looks like we need a little meeting about where this blog is going. I've suggested that we pop into a Quaker Meeting House where the benches are arranged in a particular way.

His Excellency: These Quaker Meeting Houses are organised to facilitate equality and social interaction. The idea is that anyone is allowed to speak from wherever they are sitting. 

I was going to say Amen to that but I don't think this is a Quaker saying.

Lord Brassica: Church of England, me. I don't go to church to speak; I want the Queen's servant to do that for me. 

Which Queen's servant is that, Lord B?

Lord Brassica: The Archbishop of Canterbury. Or whoever. A man of the cloth.

His Excellency: Looks like he's bored himself to sleep. Do you find that you engage with the sermon?

Lord Brassica: Certainly not. I nod off in the back pew. You can do that in the 
C of E. They even provide little cushions made by the good ladies of the church. 

Miggy: You need to decide what this post is about, Seashell: sleeping on benches or lying on benches? They're two different things. 

I found plenty of pictures where people are sleeping on benches.

You know it because their eyes are closed. 

Miggy:  Good work, Sherlock.

Some have been sleeping there so long that they have bench marks on their skin.

Lord Brassica: I find this strangely attractive. It reminds me of a dress my daughter-in-law was wearing the other day.

His Excellency: This is something of a leap of the imagination but I see what you mean about the dress. 

Do you think we could stop talking about lust now and move on with the benches?

Miggy: So did you find anyone lying on a bench, Seashell? 

Some people were prone on a bench, true enough.

Miggy:  But who are you to say they were lying? 

You're right, Migs. Some of them may have been telling the truth.

His Excellency: This is ridiculous. I thought we were going to have some intelligent social intercourse. 

Lord Brassica: I'm normally up for that kind of thing but at the moment I've got seventeen acres of broccoli to harvest. 

I can see you're all getting fed up. 

Maybe we should put this whole discussion about benches on ice?

His Excellency:  The point is that in an urban society benches are essential street furniture for the provision of social space.

This is not always recognised by public officials, who remove them or fail to keep them well maintained. 

Miggy:  I know what you mean. Sometimes the seat is there but it has no legs to support it. You have to bring your own. 

source unknown

And sometimes it's all there but you have to pay for it.

This Pay To Sit Private Bench requires you to put half a Euro in the slot if you want to sit down.

When you put the money in, the spikes go down and then after a bit of time, a buzzer sounds and the spikes pop up again. 

His Excellency: I quite fancy the idea of the spikes coming up randomly without the warning; you pay, but you never know when they will pop up.  

Miggy: This is the bench equivalent of pay toilets. It's like if you paid to use the loo and then the door flung open after two minutes . . .

Lord Brassica:  These spikes are a jolly good idea. Stops the public getting screwed by n'er-do-wells dossing down on our public benches.

Miggy: Do you mean n'er-do-wells like this, Lord B? 

Lord Brassica: Good heavens no. This is what I call a jolly nice specimen of British womanhood.  

It's a Polish woman but I think we know what you mean.

Miggy: Do you mean homeless people, Lord B?

Lord Brassica: I mean any blighter who gets drunk and kips down in a public place.

Tamsin: Someone like your son Root you mean? In the summer he's in the park almost every night.

Lord Brassica: If they would just fence off the benches, he wouldn't be sick on them.

The truth is, some people do not like other people sitting on benches.

In some city centres they are honest about those they want to exclude from benches.

Lord B: I quite agree what. 

Benches are for other things. Like benchvertising  

And some people do not want to sit on chairs next to someone else. and

They pay for a single chair which they can take away to sit in the sun or shade or wherever they want to sit. and

Miggy: This is like borrowing a supermarket trolley; you get a refund when you return the chair.

Lord Brassica: This is a jolly good idea. 

Tamsin: Why don't they have this for beds and then people wouldn't have to sleep on benches?

This is a sculpture by Dutch artist Desiree Pelman; it's called Park Bench Sleeper. 

Lord Brassica: This looks like my son when he sleeps in that park we gave to the National Trust. 

His Excellency: Park bench sleepers are criminalised in many urban societies. Issues of status and social class are at work here. It's essentially a power struggle for control of public space. 

source unknown

We're back to benches and beds again.

Miggy:  Yes, you can turn a bench into a bed, as we've seen. 

And it's quite easy to turn a bed into a bench. Crafty people have been doing it for years. 

You start with the bed.

And here's the finished bench.

Tamsin: Oh, I love the sock monkey! 

Lord Brassica: We don't go in for rustic furniture at Drizzly Manor. My wife prefers French provincial.

Miggy: Well, here you go then. A French provincial-style bed, a saw, some upholstery et voilà!

Lord Brassica: This is jolly attractive, what. I'd like to buy it for my wife.

Miggy: You can make one yourself, Lord B. You just need to follow the instructions.

Here some kind soul has left careful instructions showing how to sleep on a bench.

Tamsin: These little drawings are sooo cute. It was really nice of someone to leave this.

These instructions were very helpful for this woman.

This businessman though just couldn't find his way to dreamland.

Miggy: No wonder. He's resting on his briefcase and he's wearing a suit.

Of course one of the reasons benches are so uncomfortable for sleeping is because some people don't like other people sleeping on benches.

Tamsin: I wouldn't be able to sleep if I had this red line cutting through me.

You know how it is in airports: the seats are designed specifically to be as uncomfortable as possible so that you get into practice for the even more uncomfortable seats in the plane.

Lord Brassica: I don't like to see this kind of thing. They need to buck themselves up and ring for a taxi to take them to a decent hotel. My man can recommend one if they need it. The Ritz is very good. Also the Dorchester. 

In some places there are unpleasant signs saying that no one is allowed to sleep on the bench.

What, even twins?
Even cats?

Even very, very tired school boys?

Lord Brassica: When I was at Eton we used to eat our tuck on the bench outside the sweet shop. I have fond memories of being cuffed around the ear by the local PC when we got too rowdy. 

Some city centres have proposed Anti Social Behaviour Orders for people sleeping on benches.

Our local PC is Willie Wyme, also known as Wyme the Crime. He doesn't seem too bothered about people sleeping on public benches.

However, in many parks and urban spaces benches are off limits for having a kip. It's no good putting a newspaper over your head and trying to catch forty winks. 

The law is clear.

However, there are ways around this.

1. You can sleep sitting up, avoiding the offensive horizontal position.

2.  You can sleep under the bench, taking care to avoid the bushes, shrubs and foliage.

3. You can turn to stone, in which case you are too heavy to move.

4. You can simply ignore all warnings and drift off.

5.  Or you can bring along your Archisuit, which makes it possible to sleep on any unwelcoming bench.

Lord Brassica: That onesie suit is clever but it's not terribly attractive. I can't imagine my wife modelling it at Milan or Paris next season.

Personally, I think the time has come.

I'd like to see welcoming and comfortable benches in lots of public places. 

Lord Brassica: This looks jolly relaxing. Wouldn't mind one of these for the little patch of lawn we've got down by the summerhouse.

Miggy: That little patch of lawn is 60 acres. And the summerhouse has twenty-seven bedrooms. I can't see why you'd need the bench.

Anyway, imagine settling down in a cozy bus stop, complete with sofas, tables and TV.

Now I have a question for you:

His Excellency: I'd like to chat with some of the great prophets: Mohammed, Buddha, Jesus Christ. And Marilyn Monroe, of course. 

Tamsin: I'd like to sit with some cute puppies. Or some kittens. Or bunnies. 

Lord Brassica: No doubt about it. The Iron Lady for me. 

Tamsin: Baby wallabies would be nice. 

Miggy: I fancy that Older Male Reader that we kept seeing last year. Now if I met him on a bench, I wouldn't say no . . . 


If you are interested in serious thinking about the use of benches in public spaces, Dr. Dan Lockton has done a PhD on Design with Intent, in other words, how to influence sustainable behaviour through design  I was much inspired by reading this. The bit about social and anti-social benches is at  For more arguments about social benches and use of public space see Christopher Alexander's The Timeless Way of Building, and Alexander et al.'s A Pattern Language, OUP, New York (1977). And you thought Benchsite was just silly stories! 

There are a lot of overlaps here with Benchvertizing, which is covered in another Benchsite post. Should benches be used to sell things? Should bench users be unwitting carriers of advertising messages? Does a benchvertizer have the right to broadcast my weight to everyone using a bus stop? 

The vandal-proof bench with nails and the bench with no back or seat are two photos taken by gynti46 from Magdeburg in Germany. gynti has a varied photostream which includes quite a few benches, not all of them hospitable

Tamsin, Queen of Cute, has an eye for cute animals, babies, and just about anything with the ahhhhhh factor. For more cuteness and Tamsin's unique perspective on life, love and benches, the post she edits is at

The dog under the bench was photographed in 2011 by Luca Mortellaro from Monza in the Lombardy region of Italy.    Luca's Flickr photostream has sets full of animals, music, cities, and some really scary zombies; are these zombie benches just in time for Halloween?  

His Excellency is one of my two husbands. He's a philosopher and rather lacking in practical skills such as woodwork, metalwork, DIY and most of all, chemistry. For more about His Excellency's unfortunate past, see

Mike Coghlan in Adelaide is one of my most reliable bench providers - what an eye he has!  His bench collection is the most extensive I have found and it is truly inspirational. On dreary days I flick through to see what's new and it cheers me up enormously. For this post I have used two of his photos: one is a bench wrapped in tape, reminiscent of a crime scene. The other is the bench behind an orange fence, which Mike says is because of wet concrete. But you never know, a fence like this might keep Root off the bench too.

The Social Sofa is in Amsterdam. It was photographed by Ayatia in 2013. I saw it at   There is a whole Alphabet of Dutch benches at

In January 2015 Annette Dubois photographed the colourful pile of dancers on a bench in an art installation called Bodies in Urban Spaces by Austrian artist Cie. Willi Dorner.   It's a moving trail, choreographed for a group of dancers, where the performers lead the audience through selected parts of public and semi-public spaces. A chain of physical interventions, set up very quickly and only existing temporarily, allows the viewer to perceive the same space or place in a new and different way - on the run. The special quality of each place at various times of the day creates unique presentations.

You can't get any more social than a group Kama Sutra on a bench. These circus performers were photographed by Ben at the South Bank, Brisbane, in 2014. Ben says he had no idea they did Kama Sutra-type things in circuses these days; he now sees a new use for his joinery work bench. Ben is a musician who originates from Glasgow in Scotland but now lives in Brisbane. 

Clay Newton from Napa, California describes himself as an artist and dork. His photo of the three little girls showed them when they had just been given lollipops. Even I have to agree this is really cute.

Leniners is from France but his sets are from all over the world. There are fabulous photos of China, including Three Ladies on a Bench, taken in February 2014 in Da Pu Qiao, Shanghai.      

No wonder His Excellency would like to meet the Buddha; it's all very interesting. The meditating monks facing the wall are practicing Zen Buddhism.  Zazen means sitting Zen,  that is, suspending all judgmental thinking and letting words, ideas, emotions and thoughts pass by without getting involved in them. The aim of Zazen is to reach a state of Presence in which the awakened higher self observes the lower self impartially.  For some beautiful and truly surprising Japanese benches see

Lord Brassica, Fifth Earl of Drizzly, has a strong interest in benches and in Benchsite stories in which his family often features. He is something of an expert on picnic benches and also cows.  Lord Brassica's son Root is not much of an expert in anything, though he did help a bit when I studied bus stop benches. Root's unlikely wife is Innocent, a former nurse and now a world-reknown fashion model. Innocent's woolly warm benches dresses were something of a wow last autumn.

Daniel Lobo is an independent consultant, artist and urbanista who understands street language. He has photographed a great number of urban benches which raise uncomfortable questions about social and anti-social public space. I have used three of his photos here: 1) the vacant bench where someone's bedding remains 2) the bench covered in boxes, suggesting it is someone's home 3) the frames of benches where the seats have been removed.

The four white benches are some of more than 40 'Modified Social Benches' created by Danish designer Jeppe Hein (born 1974), who is based in Berlin and Copenhagen.  He is widely known for surprising experiential and interactive artworks positioned at the junction where art, architecture and technical inventions intersect. The photographs of the first two benches are by Jean-Pierre Dalbera, who lives in Paris and has an art nouveau photostream to die for.  The mixed up planks and the rolled up end bench (Modified Social Benches L-U) were photographed by Cheetah-Flicks in DeHaan-Wenduine in Belgium.

The no-sit bench due to damage to the mountings is from Cheng-Yee T, who is from Singapore but is currently taking life easy in LA.

Mosaic Social Sofa benches are a common site throughout The Netherlands. They're robust, eye-catching, and lend themselves to any design or theme. People at Social Sofa in Tilburg believe that there should be a bench on every street in the Netherlands. Their crusade is against social isolation and they believe that the quality of life in a neighbourhood is largely determined by the layout and maintenance of the district, and by the sense of community among its residents.   The cat bench shown is next to a fish bench in a small park in Houthavenplein in Dordrecht. There are hundreds of others!

The Bed and Breakfast bed bench is in the walled garden of Pythouse (pronounced pit-house) in Tisbury in Wiltshire. The 18th century walled garden is a perfect place to relax or have a bit of a kip in the bed and breakfast bed bench. The photograph is by Carole Dorran, who is a bit of a pilchard. No, seriously, that's her Flickr name. Carole is a genealogist who lives in Gillingham in Dorset. She has a nice collection of benches in her photostream at

The Sleeping Girl on a Wooden Bench is Schlafendes Mädchen auf einer Holzbank by Albert Anker (1831-1910). The date of the oil painting on canvas is unknown. The photographer Sotheby's and the image is in the public domain as a two-dimensional work of art due to the painter having been dead for more than 100 years. It was sold in 2012 for 1.2 million Swiss francs. I saw it at

Allan Lorde from Winnipeg is El Negro Magnifico. He draws, designs and takes pictures. One of his pictures is the Sleeping Beauty Bench, photographed in

Deepwarren lives in Sydney but photographed Naptime, the boy with the Coke cart whilst travelling in Vietnam  Deepwarren's photostream includes lots of friends, parties, travel, and a melon wrapped in clingfilm. For a real feast of art, philosophy and general brilliance, see The Daily Warren at

Ed Yourdon reckons that New Yorkers can sleep anywhere. He took the photo of the man sleeping (feet up) on the bench at the  "Broadway mall" median divider between the uptown and downtown lanes of traffic on Broadway, at 87th Street. He also photographed New Yorkers Play Chess, taken on 100th Street, between Amsterdam and Columbus Avenue. Ed's strategy is to just walk every block of Manhattan with a camera and see what happens. A lot happens. You can see what on his photostream at and his website and his blog at 

The two happy dogs on the bench are from This is the place in Hawaii for all Shiba Inu in Hawaii to meet. In case you're wondering what a Shiba Inu is, it's a type of (very cute) agile spitz dog from Japan. Tamsin heartily approves! For some barking dog benches see

The sleeping seal was photographed by Arun Venkatesan  Let Mikey the Mariner show you some brilliant ocean benches from around the world, or even just boats, or mermaids

Michael Newman photographed the boy and his frog at the Milwaukee Art Museum in 2008. Apparently the boy enjoyed Act/React and Sensory Overload. Clearly the Sensory Overload bit has kicked in and he needs a little lie-down. There are gorgeous photos in his photostream. And I have never seen that much ice on a beach!  

The early English bench or bed comes from A Brief History of Medieval and Modern Peoples (1899). It was collected by Circa Sassy from Salt Lake City, who gathers public domain pre-1922 copyright free images on his flickr photostream at 

Sleep and his half-brother death was painted in 1874 by John William Waterhouse (1849-1917). Waterhouse was a pre-Raphaelite painter particularly known for his depiction of classical subjects and of characters and themes from classical literature and poetry. The painting is a photographic reproduction of a two-dimensional, public domain work of art and in the public domain due to the copyright term of life of the author.

The photograph of the London tube station shows a mother and child sleeping in a trench shelter during the blitz of November 1940. The shelter was flooded by heavy rain, so the mother has tied her child onto the bench to prevent falling onto the wet floor. The photograph is in the public domain because it is a mechanical scan or photocopy of the original is from the Imperial War Museum collection. The author is Brandt Bill, a Ministry of Information Second World War photographer.

Martin Deutsch is an engineery type from Glasgow, now living in London.  He apparently has a keen eye for the mundane, and likes infrastructure. He took the photo of someone bench sleeping on the platform in Bethnal Green tube station in 2011.

The Quaker Meeting House shown is at Sibford Gower near Leeds, West Yorkshire. It was photographed by John Moore in 2005.

Kitty Chirapongse is a professional social networker in Bangkok. She took the picture of the sleeping priest in Paris in 2007. Her photostream is full of food, colour, animals, events, and travel. Love the set about crafts; you can't go wrong photographing skeins of wool.  And there are plent of woolly warm benches here on Benchsite too. 

The man in the kilt is by Bob Shand, who lives in Glasgow.  The kilted man was on a bench in Stirling, Scotland, in 2007. As you'd expect of someone who loves trains and Scotland, Bob's photostream has lots of brilliant photos of trains and Scotland   If you'd like to see a Benchsite Scottish wedding, have a look at

Jill is a southern girl from Knoxville TN who happens to have been around the block a bit. At the present she lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, but her heart lies in Portland Oregon, with her lovely labs and a crazy man. She's a designer by trade and by heart too. She photographed the benchmarks in skin.

Lora photographed the man in stripey trousers sleeping on a bench for her photostream at   I know nothing about Lora except that judging from her photos, she is very, very well travelled, attends a lot of conferences, and has a fabulously interesting life.

Eric Hauchecorne from France photographed the Ice Hotel bar bench in 2010. Call me cold-blooded but this bench doesn't look too hospitable to me.  For lots more very cold benches see what happened when we got Frozen last winter. 

Wally Gobetz is a serious photographer of benches. The green swirling bench is in Jacob Javits Plaza, or Federal Plaza in New York City. The bench is by landscape architect Martha Schwartz, a series of bright-green, painted benches curling around six large mounds covered with small bushes. The eye-catching design carries with it the erased history of the site, a long-demolished Richard Serra sculpture called Tilted Arc.

The Pay To Sit Private bench was designed by German sculptor Fabian Brunsing in 2008 as a protest against the commercialisation of modern life.  The bench is  covered with metal spikes so if  you want to sit on it you have to slip a 50 Euro cent coin (about 66 cents US) into the meter. The spikes retract and you can comfortability sit for a fixed period of time before the alarm goes off and the spikes rise again. Ironically though, Brunsing's art installation has been used in China as a way of stopping people grabbing a bench and staying there all day. This short video shows how it works.     

Marc is a technical writer from Brighton UK. He writes The Blog of Murk and also takes photos of stuff, for example different views of screws on a red bench. I'm not sure why the screws were there but yes, I Googled bench and screw, and there they were.

The young woman sunbathing on a bench was in Chorzowki park in Poland. She was photographed in 2010 by Agnieszka Bernacka, whose photostream is full of intriguing black and white photos of ordinary life. 

The caption Profiteer: THE WAR IS OVER, MY BOY. FORGET IT! is from a cartoon in Life magazine on March 20, 1919. It was put on Wikimedia by Rollin Kirby and is in the public domain due to the age of the cartoon.

In 2010 Eindhoven-based designers Vincent Wittenberg and Guy Königstein did some interesting experiments in the urban landscape of Bat-Yam in Israel.  They replaced existing public benches with benches that consist of individual seats where the bench itself is a docking station: using a five Shekel coin you can release a seat and place it in a different spot. The deposit is returned when you bring the seat back. The chairs introduced by the municipality cross the border between public and private and move between the sunny sidewalks to the shadow under the arcades. For more about the Bat-Yam Streeeeeet project see and

Benchvertising is a whole subject in itself. Training shoes, living rooms, homelessness - there's nothing you can't advertise on a bench. For a selection of benchable advertising (and some unsuitable), see  

The red Bench ad bench was photographed by Hamish Reid in 2009 in Oakland, California. Hamish is another Photographer of the Familiar. He has a website about Jingletown, and a Flickr photo album too.  

Desiree Palmen is a Dutch artist based in Rotterdam. She has many beautiful works of people blending, dissolving and disappearing into their surroundings. Park Bench Sleeper is from 2002. You can see her amazing work at  For other inspiring Dutch benches, see the Alphabet of Dutch Benches

This bench has been removed in order to deny the poor and homeless a place to sit is a faux plaque which was pasted on bricks where park benches used to be in a public park in Seattle. I'm sorry to say I do not know its source, other than Angry Graphics, p 29 and the site where I saw it on a history student's project page at  (student referencing ain't what it used to be). After much time spent trying to find it, I'm taking a guess at Angry Graphics: Protest Posters of the Reagan/Bush Era (no date, but guessed at 1994). I have decided to include it and hope that if anyone recognises it as theirs, they will let me know. 

The Knotty Bench was made by Gail, who can't stop making things. Her inspirational blog is devoted to doable, affordable and useable crafts that you can make yourself. Check out the ghost poop!

Peter Lambeseder in New Jersey believes that everybody deserves a second chance- even furniture.  Saddened to see so much furniture with potential going to waste,  he decided to start a furniture rescue, including the smart looking French provincial bench made from a headboard.  LoveFurnitureDesign is his etsy shop at The L.O.V.E bit stands for Limited, Original, Vintage, Eclectic.

Justin is England and American but feels most at home in Japan. His photostream has lots of photos of life in Japan. He took the photo of the instructions for sleeping on a bench in Montreal in 2010.

Sean Ganann is The Unofficial Archivist of Transient Minutia. He photographed the woman in the red dress having a waterside nap in 2008, and some other very nice shots of people on benches

The wide awake businessman is called Man Lying on His Side (2000). It's one of many fabulous sculptures by Sean Henry. I photographed this man in Salisbury Cathedral in August 2011.  

Jason Mullins gets around. He photographed the no sleeping/line through sleeper sign in Weymouth, England.

Like many other people waiting for flights, Rolling Okie crashed out on the benches of Hong Kong Airport hotel, aka, the waiting area of Hong Kong Airport. Rolling Okie is from Okie City, USA. He describes himself as not so average in an average sort of way. His photo sets suggest a lot of not so average travel around the world.

Thomas Hawk is trying to publish a library of 1,000,000 hand crafted, lovingly created, individually finished and processed photographs before he dies. The absurdity of his obsessive compulsive view on photography is not lost on him, but it is the absurdity of life that he finds most beautiful of all. Where Sisyphus had his stone, Thomas Hawk has his camera and a bag full of lenses. He photographed the No One Is Allowed to Sleep on the Bench sign.

Stefano Arteconi is from Bologna in Italy. His brilliant photograph of the twin ladies dozing off on their bench was taken in 2009 at Berlin zoo. I am fascinated by this photo. Same dress, same shoes, so why, I wonder, do they have different hats?

Carlos Fonseca lives in Portugal and takes fabulous photos, including the Obligatory Cat photo of the two chilled cats on a bench in 2013. This to me is the epitome of a brilliant cat photo. I've added it to my favourites.  And if you want to see some fabulous Cat Benches, my feline editor Meredith will guide you through. 

The innocent days of Lord Brassica at the tuck shop are well and truly over. Francis Storr was on his way to work at the ungodly hour of 6:45 am on a Saturday morning when he spied these hungover schoolboys next to Costa Coffee in Tunbridge Wells.  They seemed to think that sleeping it off on a town-centre bench was a good idea.  For some very well-educated school benches, see

Chester is a very posh town in the north of England. It's the sort of place where people might be offended by other people, in other words, shoppers in the pretty streets of Chester do not like to see homeless people on their benches. In October 2015 two street artists placed some plaques on benches across the city to raise awareness of the plight of homelessness in their city. I have shown two of the plaques in this story. As reported in The Chester Chronicle, it wasn't long before the plaques were removed because, according to an official spokesperson, ". . . although they may appear humorous, some people may find them offensive". So now it's not just homeless people who are offensive; it's humour as well. I saw this story on Jamie Zawinski's blog at

David "Bucky" Schwarz lives in New York City. He photographed the sign which is intended to stop people being horizontal on benches or indeed, in the buses around the benches. Bucky's photostream is at   There are plenty more bus stop benches at

Chris lives in Silicon Valley and photographed the Lego man dozing on a bench. Chris says that if you really wanted to know more about him, you'd go to Otherwise, all you are going to learn about him on his flickr page is that he takes a lot of mediocre and boring photographs. Occasionally, he gets a gem though. For this story, his Lego man is a gem.

Elizabeth Hollin took the picture of the little dog sleeping under a bench in Paracas, Peru in 2009. She has a whole set of Peruvian dogs on her photostream at She warns that Peru's dogs are in a perpetual state of despair. 

The Uppsala Bench is in Uppsala in Sweden. It was photographed in 2005 by Kevin Hutchinson. There are some copyright issues with reproducing sculptures but this one is outdoors so it's freely available under Swedish copyright law.

This clown gets around town in New York City. He's featured before on Benchsite. torbakhopper caught him sleeping in City Hall Park, Commons Historic District in Manhattan in October 2013.

Jordan Dawe's flickr account is part of an attempt to offload parts of his memory onto the internet. If we get neural computer implants someday, he'll load it all back into his head.   He photographed the sculpture of the newspaper sleeper in 2007. I'm fairly sure this is a cast aluminium sculpture by Richard S. Beyer (1925-2012), who has been on Benchsite before.  Beyer used humour to affirm the human condition, often making fun of things that limit and debase, such as pretension and complacency.

Sarah Ross is a conceptual artist whose works focus on myths of health, safety and cleanliness that surface in the physical and visual structures of everyday spaces. She designed the Archisuit in 2005-2006 as one of four leisure jogging suits made for specific architectural structures in Los Angeles. The suits include the negative space of the structures and allow a wearer to fit into, or onto, structures designed to deny them.

PW Fenton from Florida photographed the surreal Dali Time bench in 2008 whilst singing Hello Dali to himself. He has travelled to 21 states and 11 countries - more than Sarah Palin. For a varied and somewhat quirky photostream see his work at

Kristina DC Hoeppner is from Wellington, New Zealand. She is a Bench Person after my own heart. My goodness, what an angle she gets on all kinds of benches.  She photographed the comfy bus stop bench at the end of the story. Apparently, the Wellington city council had removed the benches from this bus stop and some generous soul donated couches and other living room furniture. It being Christmas, it was further decorated with the seasonal requisites. How pro-social can you get?

Anna Mae Gold lives in Canada. Her blog is about wandering and wondering off the beaten path of life. At www.musingsfrommara.blogspot she shares thoughts, dreams, hopes and a wee bit of wisdom and folly. In a recent post she asked the Bench question at the end of the story, which leads me to ask: Who would you like to share a bench with?