Pull Up a Chair
How site furnishings transform a space into a place
By Kelli Anderson
No matter what style or cohesive look is decided upon, universal rules for bench placement is the same. Locating a bench near something—visually anchoring it to a place with a substantial planter, beautiful landscaping, near a wall, tree or sculpture—makes the place feel more secure and inviting to the user. Locating seating in easily visible areas offers a sense of security and reduces vandalism, vagrancy and loitering.
Whether placing a bench along a pathway or in view of activities and scenery, it's a good idea to pay attention to the mowing strip. Having a perimeter around all site furnishings, for that matter, is a good thing—it eliminates the nuisance of mowing and the tendency for feet to get muddy in inclement weather.
For those benches placed near a path, the solid surface beneath can either be an extension of the path material or, for more visual interest, can be made of a different material. Along those same lines, it's a good idea for seating to be at least one-and-a-half feet back from a path for easy clearance from pedestrians.
If promoting social time is the goal, comfortable benches with backs set in groups of two or more is ideal.
"Sitting next to each other is harder than, say, a 90-degree angle to encourage interaction," says Carl Kelemen, ASLA, principal of Evergreen Landscape Associates in Roslyn, Pa. "Where lengthy socialization is not encouraged, use backless benches. They're not as likely to stay as long."