Street furniture can be seen everywhere within the world. Every city has a mailbox or telephone pole or that of a phone booth or even one of those benches that you can sit and rest on. These are the standard fare when travelling to any place in the world, so they really aren’t that special when seeing them.
Unless of course you see something that is more than just street furniture…
In many cases, these bizarre examples of street furniture are done for a purpose, usually to showcase a creative flair by someone or owner of a residence or storefront. Sometimes these examples are taken from that of popular culture, everything from music to that of video games and science fiction. For instance, a design studio in Argentina created street furniture that was done in the shapes made popular by the classic video game, Tetris.
These pieces were commissioned by the local recycling company and were done by showcasing trash and rubbish within the actual cubes. Not only was this done with an interesting and unique take on a popular childhood video game for many, it also teaches and stylizes trash, which helps to teach people about how recycling can be beneficial.
Across the pond in America, a local New York artist is redesigning how we look at those boring telephone poles or street signs that people are used to seeing; instead, Brad Downing has taken to the Alice in Wonderland motif, combing the ordinary looks of street furniture with fantastical images, using a technique that makes the signs seem animated.
In Paris, French designer Mathieu Lehanneur has built something called a Digital Bank or Escale Numerique, which is a form of intelligent street furniture. These banks features free wi-fi stations for those with laptops to use or access information about the city using a large display. It’s a bit like a destination hub that can also help lost travellers find their way around.
In Korea, several designers are reusing cardboard to create new items, including furniture.
Even signs aren’t spared the uniqueness that comes with a creative endeavour; Tim Delner for instance makes street sign furniture, which is literal furniture made from street signs. There is also the ‘Sand Glass’ traffic lights, which are actual visual hour glass done in the usually familiar green, yellow, or red lights we see at a traffic lights. The difference is that it’s primarily used to help both those speed demons and the slow pokes know when the light is going to change.
Like an hour glass, these lights count down until the next light change, which can be helpful for those who aren’t sure if they have time to make the light or not.
And of course, there’s the ever popular icons of pop culture; several geeks and nerds would love to have the kind of phone booth that is shaped like the famous TARDIS machine from Dr. Who. And while much of these are done for amusement or geekiness or to be helpful, there can be a price with the creative going as far as ‘defacing’ public property.
An artist in Florence, Italy found that out when his funny and often controversial placement of easily removed stickers on public signs in the city cost him about 400 Euros.
The Evolving Designs of Street Furniture
Why is street furniture so popular for modification or changing? The obvious reason is that it’s easily seen; the very public nature of street furniture gives it the perfect publicity to those who go by it. Looking back at the design studio that used Tetris to teach about recycling, people were brought in by the familiarity of the game, especially those who had played it and got the pop culture reference. But along with the familiarity of the video game comes with the very idea of teaching about recycling.
The pieces that are seen within the video game were done in such a way as to showcase the rubbish that sat within, the very centrepiece of the work. A nice visual concept on showing people how recycling can help to make other things.
There is also an amusement factor, of course. In some instances, such as having a TARDIS phone booth, the idea is to share a laugh or a memory with others who also share in your like or love of a certain movie, TV show or book. Thanks to the Internet and that of streaming movie sites, more and more people are discovering classic shows from other countries or from their parents or grandparents generation; this of course just continues to grow a fan base and creative endeavours to express that love.
Dan Whitely has a fascination for street furniture and recently has been working on some intricate street furniture designs for Chris Nangle Furniture.