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Ever Wonder Why Cities Are Full Of Uncomfortable Benches

When designing urban spaces, city planners have many competing interests to balance. After all, cities are some of the most diverse places on the planet. They need to be built for a variety of needs.

image/text credit: Vox

In recent years, these competing interests have surfaced conflict over an unlikely interest: purposefully uncomfortable benches. Enter the New York City MTA. They’ve installed ‘leaning bars’ to supplement traditional benches & save platform space.

It turns out the rigid, metal benches with too many armrests that pepper urban landscapes aren’t placed there by mistake, and their newest evolutions—the leaning bar or even less intuitive fold-down bench—are just getting closer to the designers’ goal of ultimate discomfort.


But designs like this carry an often invisible cost: they rob citizens of hospitable public space. And the people who experience this cost most directly are those experiencing homelessness.