Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Park Bench-9th and Guadalupe Tower

It’s just a little past 5:30 on a Tuesday afternoon, just the hour when people have begun to grab their coats and head for the door, ending yet another taxing day at the office. One man in particular steps out of his door at Guadalupe and 9th street, but before he heads to the bus stop to enter a still more chaotic evening with his three super-active small boys and ever busy wife, he heads toward the park on the northwest corner for a quick stroll around the small grounds. As he rounds the corner with the bench that faces in toward the picturesque white gazebo sunken in the center of the park, he contemplates a short rest on the bench but then decides against it as soon as he sees the two men who now occupy it active in lively conversation. Instead he stands a couple meters behind the bench, staring idly toward the people gathered around the gazebo, a contented outsider casually observing the activity in the park that is bordered by the bench.

Now back to the two men occupying the bench. Judging by their appearance they seem to be homeless but perhaps acquaintances who often take advantage of the greenery the park offers as a contrast to a fairly built-up city. However, the interesting thing is that the two are utilizing the bench in different ways. One sits and the other stands. Their focus is not at all on the center of the park or the surrounding park as was the focus of the other individual man. Instead they are engaged only with each other, though I can imagine that their setting plays a conscious or perhaps only subconscious role on their experience.

I can imagine that the different positions of the two men, though, greatly influence their experiences as well. The man who is sitting, for example, must look drastically upwards to see eye-to-eye with the other man. Therefore, should his eyes start to wonder at all, the background is only the sky, the upper levels of surrounding buildings, and perhaps a few tree branches. On the other hand, the man standing uses the bench only as an object of security, something by which he can stand. Looking down toward the man sitting on the bench, he can look easily from side to side to see passers by or cars coming from either side that pass through the intersection. He experiences a fuller interaction with the site.

In conclusion, the bench is used by various actors in many different ways; some don’t even realize they are using it. It is an object that in many ways brings people together, though can also serves as a barrier in some circumstances.


Montry said...

The interesting aspect about an object that can be used is the very basic and fundamental interactions that take place. My object was a picnic table, and some of the observations you made are along the same lines. The man that was walking to the bench for a rest realized it was being used and changed his agenda. Most people would be quick to observe the obvious…he didn’t sit there because it is already being used. That’s simple, very simple. But, even that small perception – the bench is in use, I can’t use it – has an affect on the possible user. In my scenario a used object meant that another one near by would have to suffice. Again, simple…but that small observation can lead to larger changes when a new decision must be made, and ultimately, something simple is now complex.

Christian Leigh said...

It's interesting how time plays a role in the urban environment. The object of this story remains very attractive as long as time exists. When people are on schedule or feel rushed, they hardly notice the environment around them and for moments of time the object is undesirable and seems to exists without a purpose.