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An outdoor bench that automatically retracts into a wall or pavement to prevent unwanted people from hanging around

Image credit: https://urbanff.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/City-Wall-Mounted-Seat-front.jpg

Povilas S
Povilas S Jul 10, 2022
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An outdoor bench that retracts into a wall or ground when not used by local residents. The retraction/unfolding mechanism is activated by means only certain people have access to.
  • In areas like apartment building yards (especially next to the entrance of the building, under the first floor windows, etc.) people are sometimes hesitant to place benches for their own convenience since this also gives opportunity for youngsters, alcoholics, homeless and similar people to come and hang out there. With a proposed solution the locals could have the benefits without the disadvantages.
  • There's an option to simply fold and lock the bench without hiding it, but this is less effective as people might try to break or unlock the lock out of resentment, for fun, etc. The option proposed by this idea is also aesthetically more pleasing and requires almost no human effort.
How it works:
Wall-mounted benches: For wall-mounted benches, a simple thin hole in the wall would do to hide the bench. The bench seat would roll in and out on a rail-like mechanism. If the wall into which the bench retracts is too thin to hide its entire width, the bench seat could also fold into a thinner width while rolling in and spread again while rolling out.
Grounded benches: A thin hole in the pavement could also work for benches placed on the ground. The mechanism would lift the bench seat vertically and retract it together with its legs inside. The edge of the seat would cover the hole and serve as a pavement extension.
In residential areas, local people could activate the folding and unfolding of such benches by placing a magnetic key somewhere near the bench retraction hole. It's easy to just attach the chip to your home key bundle.
Additional use:
In more public places like city parks, squares, etc., an automated system placing benches only during certain hours of the day (excluding night hours) might help increase public order and safety. The folding and unfolding of the benches at specific times could be activated by a timer. People might still gather and sit on the ground, on various landscape design structures, etc. but it would make it less convenient for them.
Creative contributions

Public benches for improvement usability of public space.

Marco Agudelo
Marco Agudelo Jul 27, 2022
Public spaces are more useful when they are opened wide spaces, use space with temporal requirements like house move, use for exercise, offer that sense of belonging due to that long flat floor and there is a moment in which benches are those quiet places in where people gather with others, spare time with itself, enjoy watching other people interact, enjoy certain part of the day like the morning, sunset, etc. Public benches enrich public space in a way that contributes to that live system of cities and citizens by signing where to gather and where to sit on public space. As a contribution to the Povilas S Idea of using retract benches to avoid undesired users I see this Idea as a contribution to include movement into public spaces which would amaze me to see it happen in parks, avenues, building’s entrances and other crowded spaces.
Here is a system designed to use hydraulic power slat benches integrated to the web capable of verifying usability and improving information about the use of public space in order to continuously redesign the city. What could be called “smart” powered slat benches for now let's avoid the smart part and focus at least on their necessity and feasibility.
As mentioned before the use of static benches increases misuse of undesiderd persons, which contribute to increase the sense of street dangers and fear of using public spaces in a citizen manner. Also static benches creates a problem about efficient use of public spaces because what ends up being a bad exterior design due to citizens just don’t use them or areas only frequented by undesired personnel remain just like that, until it is pretty obvious (sometimes with public health problems) and local major the majority of the times need to rebuild all the space around. If one could have insites of use of public space there could be small programmed improvements like just moving a group of benches from a bunch of trees into a site with a newer view of a recently builded project.
If public benches are retractable into the ground, public spaces will be seen cleaner when unvisited. I believe that can impreng a sense of calm into the place and start having its own movement during the day while desired users hangaround into the public spaces and are willing to remain there for a while. Retractable benches can contribute to generate movement into the city and reduce undesired users, vandalism or public abuse.
How it works
Well designed slat benches will be integrated with an hydraulic system capable of taking them in and out of the ground with calculated cycles every time a platform verified user requires to. Benches will go out with a prudent speed to be ready in a secure way in the least time possible, but will go into the ground at a slow peace to avoid undesired interactions derivable of leaving the bench free.
Designs could be led by industrial designers or similar capable persons that can achieve embellishment of public space upon selected places like public halls, parks, public zoos, streets, buildings, etc. There is a restriction and that is to be a slat oriented design.
As an example I attached the following photos, in which there is a pair of slats at a higher level to avoid people lying down during the slowed into-the-ground cycle.
Verified users through a public application will request at demand which benches to be in their allowed domain and when needed which bench will be used.

I worked on an initial design from which the above photos were taken. Each slat is 80cm x 50cm x 5cm, if Slats are made in steel their unit weight would be around 160Kg. If manufactured in rubber their weight would be around 20Kg per slat. If manufactured in pine it would weigh 7Kg each. It could be analyzed the option to use concrete mixes used on public space, like those prefabric floors used on parkways. Anyway the selected material should offer enough rigidity to public abuse or vandalism and if possible durable resistance to weather. So I would use rubber compound for a pilot test. Because a heavier system will require a more complex hydraulic system.
About the public application users that have already verified their identity can approach to the proposed public benches, request to include them into their selected benches, request to use them, maybe comment on them (if repair or maintenance are required).
By using the application users will give information of which public areas are frequented, at what time of the day, and should be analyzed what more information will be generated of using the benches in order to be proactive about privacy.
The application will account information about usability of public space and public employees may verified through an indirect measure why some public areas are used by citizens more than others, may verified too if certains part are enough covered with public facilities (like benches and others than can be indirect measured too) and so propose modifications of those areas as a continuous improvement.
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General comments

Miloš Stanković
Miloš Stanković2 years ago
I like the idea, but there will certainly be people who would pounce on the bench whenever a resident walks away from it to try and contain it because I'm assuming the bench wouldn't retract while sensing the pressure of weight. Magnetic keys work at only small distances as far as I know. More worryingly some people would even wedge something metal in the back rows so that the bench couldn't retract. Especially in parks.
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Povilas S
Povilas S2 years ago
Miloš Stanković The idea is that whenever a resident wants to sit and chill on the bench they place the magnetic key to the magnetic lock installed on the wall or pavement where the bench is hidden and it shows up, when they are leaving later, they place the key again and it retracts. There wouldn't be a chance for someone from aside to try withholding the bench. One could also use remote control for this, but it's not necessary.
In parks, CCTV could help prevent vandalism.
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Miloš Stanković
Miloš Stanković2 years ago
Povilas S I think that people, especially those well-off, are so hesitant to enter a disagreement face to face so the homeless are just going to ask them to leave the bench up and at least 50% are going to comply.
While CCTV cameras aren't going to deter "unwanted people" in places that have a problem with them, that is where the solution is needed. They are already down on their luck and don't care for the social stigma of being on CCTV cameras, while the police wouldn't bother with such a petty thing.
It's still a great idea for the aesthetic side of it.
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Povilas S
Povilas S2 years ago
Miloš Stanković You seem very pessimistic about this. I agree that there are flaws and things that could go wrong, just like with any solution, but still - having more solutions only improves the situation, not makes it worse:) CCTV plus retractable benches are better than just the CCTV or just the benches.
Unwanted people are unlikely to hang out in semi-private spaces waiting for someone to come and unfold the bench for them. If a resident sees that there's a band hanging around they could simply skip unfolding the bench and come at a better time, it's still better than having no bench or only a stationary one.
Also - it's a good practice of saying no when you don't want to leave the bench for someone who doesn't have the magnetic key from it. Let people know if they're unwanted there. Those who are calm and don't cause any fuss can stay. If they do, however, next time they won't have the bench.
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Miloš Stanković
Miloš Stanković2 years ago
Povilas S I just thought you or someone else might figure out a way to completely nullify the dangers to it. But everything you stated here is true.
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