Strategically place art pieces around the area; play different types of music at different hours/days
Oguntola TobiSep 20, 2021
Art and music are two things that make for great conversation starters.
If there are art pieces around such places, people who visit can start conversations with each other, share their respective opinions, and bond over the pieces. It is something I see myself doing.
Also, research proves that music strengthens social bonds. That is something I can personally attest to as I've struck up conversations with random people based on our shared taste in music.
The creators can play different music genres at different hours of the day/on different days. This can lead to people who like a particular genre visiting the space when their favorite music genre is being played just so they can meet new people with similar tastes and socialize with them.
Giving context to mundane situations and starting the narrative
Miloš StankovićSep 22, 2021
I thought of what type of events have the most strangers starting conversations with each other and costume parties stood out immediately. Yes, a part of it is because people feel a bit anonymous under the masks, but a great part of it is that there is context to the interaction from the get-go. More than just "we're just two random people amongst the million running around in this city". At costume parties, people often use as conversation openers the phrases commonly connected to the costumes. Be it police officers, doctors, pilots.
If we could through clever painting and architecture make some benches look like places relevant to costumes they could serve as conversation-starters as well. A police station (paint a weight chart behind the bench), a fireman station (put a vertical pole next to it), a pirate ship plank coming from the mock side of an old ship, a silly western-style bench with maybe small bullet holes at the top...
People also feel more loose interacting with strangers when there are sports involved as it serves as a strong group identifier, making the other person less of a stranger. In cities with only one sports team (to avoid confrontations) one could paint a text bubble with something like "Let's go Borussia" pointing to the person sitting. That could spur on high-fives, common club chants, and probably conversation about the club.
I also remembered a town in Germany putting a game of pong on the opposite sides of traffic lights. A small console could be installed on the opposing side of the benches or on one console at the opposing benches. Having a bit of silly competition could be a great banter and conversation starter after winning or losing.
I also feel that a feeling of isolation might ease social anxiety in people and spark them to have conversations. It's hard enough to try and make the first move and break the norm of not speaking to strangers when you see someone who is interesting to you, it's even harder when there are other people in the hearing distance. Cocooned benches would provide such an intimate space to have a conversation. Be it with plants or the actual design of the benches.
The only time strangers opened conversations with me outside of bars and whatnot was when I was doing something positive, charitable. Like giving money to the homeless or picking up litter in parks. We could incentivize such behaviour by using benches and parks as stations that would have disposable rubber gloves and trash bags so that people could pick up trash. As for some form of charity, some cities have dispensaries for cat and dog food so that people could feed the strays and this could be also stored beneath the benches themselves.
An outdoor gym where the training stations face each other
Darko SavicSep 18, 2021
An outdoor gym where groups of training stations face each other. Because there are multiple groups of stations, people can easily avoid or join others if they feel like it.
Give passersby other reasons to sit
Samuel BelloSep 19, 2021
Well, people will not sit down just because they see pieces of furniture in their street, they will need some reason to sit there. The reason people gather in a bar is usually because of the alcohol. The reason they gather at a stadium is usually because of the games that happen there.
I would suggest that side attractions that encourage interaction between people should be placed around such places. There could be board games, card games, and magazines that are likely to provoke conversations. One thing that will surely attract teens is free wifi. ;-)
Sitting spots positioned in a circle with an interesting feature in the center
Darko SavicSep 18, 2021
Sitting spots positioned in a wide enough, irregularly shaped circle to give everyone their space. Everyone faces towards the inside of the circle. There is something that draws attention in the center so that people naturally look at it while catching glimpses of each other.
Could the central attraction be something that starts conversations? What could it be?
Bus stops designed by local artists
Darko SavicSep 20, 2021
As explained in this idea. Replace all bus stops in a city with standard shipping-container-sized platforms/frames upon which the local artists and architects can build creative sitting areas. Periodically move different bus stop installations to different locations.