Basic parameters of street furniture

Martin Mrázek

SUMMARY

One of the first people to address urban areas was Leonardo da Vinci with his manuscript “La città ideale”. When he learnt that the population of Milan had reached 50,000 in 1486, he became the first urbanist to design a plan for a modern and rationally-organized town[1] which also included a list of factors necessary to create street furniture.  The growing average age of the population places great emphasis on the quality of life and healthy lifestyle in all population groups. Based on recent studies, senior citizens constitute the fastest growing segment of the population. Demographic development indicates that in 2017, one in eight people worldwide was 60 or older. In 2050, seniors are projected to account for one in five people globally and they are expected to account for 35 per cent of the population in Europe[2]. The health and fitness of those future seniors will differ from the present-day ones. The health of these people will be better and their life ambitions will be higher. This will significantly change the role of seniors in the society and, as a result, in public areas, and it might be an outcome of a different approach to the use of urban furniture. Street furniture is a special area of interest that focuses on detailed solutions of products designed for human use in an exterior environment.

The sample element with defined ergonomic parameters has been defined based on the analysis of the standard and most used component of street furniture – bench, by comparing the materials used and the chosen construction. In the comparison and the subsequent conclusions, a great emphasis was placed on the functionality and durability of the individual components. The categories of street furniture have been based on the study of production programs of mainstream furniture manufacturers in Europe, and on the research of factors influencing street furniture. With the basic material of the supporting structure, the sitting and leaning sections and based on the measurements and defining of materials, a sample construction design has been proposed, with supporting element of concrete, steel and wooden constructions including their surface treatment has been described.

If the products meet basic technical and ergonomic parameters, they can be classified as street furniture, especially when they are used in urban areas. Street furniture for senior citizens can be categorized similarly. If furniture is to be installed in areas frequently attended by seniors, e.g. in the vicinity of retirement homes, it should be barrier-free and fitted with aid and support elements.

The locations for which street furniture is designed correspond with requirements and activities of their users. Infrastructure and availability change according to their needs over the course of time. It is therefore necessary to provide comfortable areas for people who commute to their work every day. Individual areas are already divided according to town planning concepts into working, living, recreation and transport zones. Some zones overlap due to the development of new technologies. Nowadays, it is no problem to work outside the office and use the internet and mobile phones in all zones, whereas it was not possible in the past. “Points” that offer the necessary comfort features have started to pop up.

The design of individual street furniture elements should be function-oriented. Shapes and colours should not be dominant, but rather blend into the environment in which they are placed. Of course, if we want to add another function to the furniture, e.g. aesthetic or artistic one, and use the piece as a work of art, despite its functionality, we can create a dominant and highly-visible stand-alone object. Seniors who are more and more active use street furniture to  have a short rest, chat with their peers or wait for public transport. Short-term use can be defined as use not exceeding 5 minutes. When street furniture is used for a longer period of time, it is assumed that people will use it to relax, make a phone call, browse the internet, people-watch and rest. The use of materials with added value in production has been growing extensively and the development of advanced technologies and materials will continue. Our technologies evolve, and thanks to the progress in research, we are able to create new and newly-modified materials from elements such as carbon. Similarly, street furniture products will improve accordingly.

Besides the above-mentioned sociological, ergonomic and aesthetic factors, the most important characteristics of furniture products are durability, functionality and stability. The continued development of new materials and technologies brings new possibilities for developing new concepts in designing street furniture.

Based on the available information, there is practically no literature on street furniture for seniors presently available. This paper builds primarily on practical experience from designing, construction and production of street furniture and products from prominent European companies working in this area.

The objective of this paper is to define the standard characteristics that must be observed when designing street furniture, formulate a concept of street furniture for seniors and principles for the use of materials suitable for a specific environment, define materials suitable for specific types of environment and present a proposal for adjusting the basic dimensions of the street furniture seats for the elderly.

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[1] CREMANTE, S. and PEDRETTI, C. 2005. Leonardo da Vinci: [artista, scienziato, inventore]. 1st edition. Firenze [u.a.]: Giunti, ISBN 88-090-3811-8., pg.520
[2] UNITED NATIONS, World Population Ageing 2017, link:https://www.un.org/development/desa/ageing/wp-content/uploads/sites/24/2017/05/WPA-2017-Launch-to-the-IDOP-5-October-2017.pdf, pg.7

Keywords: factors, function, functionality, furniture design, material, senior, square, street, street furniture, urban areas, urban zone