Benches along the Thames

I always love walking along London’s Embankment, across the Golden Jubilee Bridge and then down around the Southbank Centre (southbankcentre.co.uk). The Royal Festival Hall, National Theatre, National Film Theatre, impromptu music, skaters and street music – it is all there in full colour…except when it suddenly turns grey and drizzly. Then a monchrome mist descends and casts its damp gloom over everything. Londoners, being the hardy souls they are, don’t let a bit of grey get in the way of enjoying a Sunday afternoon out. Here and there, it is still possible to find pops of colour as people sit on benches facing the river and watch the boats go by.  At the moment there is a special instalation of bright orange variations of park benches scattered around the Royal Festival Hall. Called Modified Social Benches (southbankcentre.co.uk/…/modified-social-benches-1001665) by the Danish artist Jeppe Hein (jeppehein.net) these variations on New York City urban architecture try to break the down “those behavioural patterns in public space, since even contact-avoiding people allow bodily closeness in limited space. With its modifications, the benches transform its surroundings into places of social activity and foster dialogue between the users and the passers-by.” (taken from the Southbank Centre website). 

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A bench’s influence on the interactions between people and their urban surroundings didn’t seem to be limited to the orange installations, other more traditional benches also serve their social purpose well…

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