Most furniture designers create objects that are comfortable to sit on, beautiful to look at, and, maybe, solve a problem for the user. But what we also have to realise is that we are designing a platform for interaction. Especially when it comes to public space design, we are designing something for everyone to share. An island in the public space. A place where people talk, laugh, contemplate, and network with each other.

Furniture has always been a part of the social space, ever since we first put logs around a fire pit to sit on and chat about the latest mastodon sighting. Think about it. In virtually every social moment of your life, furniture was there to create a natural place to socialise around the dinner table, on a park bench under a tree, or by the bar at a nightclub. The furniture affects how we feel and act. A minimalist space in a muted colour scheme instils a sense of calm and harmony while lots of furniture and vibrant colours pick up the pace, hence the importance of a good public space design.

Physical spaces build stronger relationships

By removing barriers, creating local hubs, and giving users a sense of wellbeing, an attractive public space design creates a foundation for friendly conversation and a place to socialise. We have removed the conventional seat dividers from our furniture, replacing them with infinite lengths of seating possibilities. We give users a choice to maintain a personal space or create an opportunity to meet new people, depending on where they choose to sit. When benches are not split into defined seats, we can scooch together when the place is busy and spread out when it’s calm. And there’s always room for one more. When you break down barriers, you create a platform for something bigger. We call it seamless seating.

Public space design with no more straight lines

Walk into an airport, and you’ll find endless rows of benches in straight lines. Everyone who’s been travelling with friends or family knows how unnatural it feels to sit next to each other in a straight line and still keep a good conversation going. It’s not something you would do anywhere else. We use more than 10,000 different facial expressions when we talk, and more than half of the information we perceive comes from reading facial expressions and body language. That is why sitting in curves or circles to face each other is so much better. At the airport, that means we can share our excitement about the trip we’ve been planning for so long with everybody in the group, not just the person sitting next to us.

When we focus on creating positive interactions in and through the right public space design, I believe we can do more than make a place to sit. We can create a place to socialise, a place to build relationships.