*Testing Resistance

There are an upwards of 20 different styles of benches on the sidewalks of Los Angeles. They each serve a function, usually related to transportation and waiting; though they could serve many other functions such as aiding in socialization or resting. For this project I have tested the resistant behavior of each type of bench. To understand the resistant behavior of such benches is to first examine the behavior of human bodies and our surrounding environments. Human bodies are soft, flexible, mutable and often amazingly resilient to various conditions. The structures of the built environment are management tools for not only masses of bodies but for specific individual bodies as well; (for instance sidewalks function to control the flow of traffic and maintain it within certain borders). These management apparatuses are found specifically in all the benches I have tested. Most benches have a type of divider, or hospitably put, an arm rest, to break up the surface of the bench, thereby commanding bodies to sit apart from one another in specific measured squares and rectangles designed to just adequately accommodate the ass and (sometimes) upper back of the body. Other benches provide a minimum of seating room so as to contain only one small to medium sized human at a time. These designs resist the desires of bodies to perform in a non- upright sitting position, thwarting the possibilities of comfort and time spent in such locations.

different bench types in Los Angeles

Bench #1 has a slightly decorative, maybe historic, design possibly meant to compliment the parts of the city that try to resurrect the days of yore. This bench is found sheltered under some light rail platforms (good for sunny days), as well as on sidewalks, usually unsheltered from the sun (tragic for sunny days). They are metal, painted black, and measure a total of 66.5”x16”. An armrest measuring 1.5” divides the bench in half, allowing for up to 4 adults to sit in a close upright position, yet disallowing any section of the horizontal body to fit comfortably. Slouching is doable, but lying down is only possible in contorted positions, maybe another historic reference.

Bench #2 seems specific to the area of NE Los Angeles, it is made of 6 wooden planks half of which make up the seat and half the back of the bench. There is a sitting space of 34.5” x 11” on either side of a metal armrest measuring 2.25” wide, which divides the bench into two halves. The color and materiality of the wood controls the heat of the sun, making the surface warm, yet not too hot on a hot, hot day. In addition, this bench can be found under bus shelters, which also creates a cooler habitat for the user. This bench is adequate for sitting and slouching and the armrest could be used as an uncomfortable headrest for a short body to utilize half of the bench for horizontally resting half of the body.

Bench #3 is home to West Hollywood. It is all steel, painted a bright blue, and provides a very comfortable upper back support. Though it is rarely sheltered, the color tames the heat enough. This bench provides enough space for up to four differently sized individuals to sit in upright positions, boasting almost 70” of space. A short upper body (from lower back to head) or lower body (from buttocks to feet) could fit horizontally in one of the two sections of this bench, but never both at the same time, due to the armrest-divider feature that bisects the surface of the bench in two equal parts.

Bench #4 is another type of bench found around most of LA County. This bench, by far, is designed for the most uncomfortable stay. With no back, and small metal spaces for seating, you will hope your stay here is short. The bench measures a total of 60” but is divided into thirds by round bars raised approximately 3.5” above the seat’s surface. No section of the adult body in a horizontal position can fit into spaces between the bars, making the act of laying nothing short of shear pain. Most of these benches are painted black or brown and even sheltered; yet the material and color acts as friendly cohorts with the sun, making morning or afternoon (depending which side of the street you are on) a very steamy endeavor.

Bench #5 is another creation found in West Hollywood. This hexagon shaped bench can seat six individuals determined to not talk to each other. The shape of the bench, however, does provide scant comfortabilty for individuals interested in laying in the fetal position, of course without rolling over. Others wishing to lie horizontally in non-fetal positions, or sit in upright positions will find that this bench is very inhospitable, rejecting any notion of comfort. These benches are sheltered, and although they are steel, the bright blue color does an ok job of keeping the heat factor at a bearable level.