Failure by design

Park Bench in Japan 

This public park bench in Japan has a number of design features that are very unergonomic:

  1. A rigid, upright back that forces the user to sit upright.
  2. Seating that slopes down and outwards, making the user slip down the bench constantly.
  3. Tight partition/dividers that prohibits anything else but a rigid straight sitting position.
  4. Relatively shallow seat depth.

One may wonder – how did this bench even get designed, produced and commissioned for use in Japan’s oldest park, Ueno Onshi, given its obvious ergonomic problems? Turned out that it is designed precisely to be unergonomic. According to this article, Ueno Onshi plays host to hundreds of homeless Japanese. These features ensure that the benches deter the homeless from occupying stretching out or sleeping in its park benches – in the process probably also detering park users from a deserved respite while using the park.

No matter what your stance towards these homeless people, it is obvious that these benches have failed in its purpose. While they may be somewhat effective* in deterring the homeless, they have also simultaneously deprived or severely limited valid users from its benefits. It is simply, designed to fail. It’s like asking BMW to design a car that doesn’t turn to deter thieves from stealing and driving off with their cars.

*somewhat effective, because some creative homeless people do adapt to these unfriendly artefacts:

Homeless people reacted to the benches in three main ways. Most common were the “defeatists,” who gave up on the grounds that the benches were so uncomfortable that it was easier to just lay down a newspaper and sit on the ground. Next most common were the “optimists,” who argued that while they found it a hassle to be unable to sit on benches for a long period of time, it did mean that other park users had to put up with seeing homeless people less. Finally, there were the “innovators,” who would lie folding their bodies into a V-shape around the central bench divider, or placing bags on either sides of the divider at the same height, or even placing a camping stove underneath the stainless steel tubular bench above to cook and at the same time warm the bench!

[ohmygodnews has more]


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