Our design for a bench addresses the themes of community care and social inequality. Red Chester, as it’s called, aims to bring home comfort out into the city to help people adjust to a life after lockdown.
We have designed a bench in the shape of a traditional Chesterfield sofa — a universal design icon and symbol of home and comfort. Also a symbol of wealth and luxury, placing the Chesterfield sofa in the urban realm highlights the need for more inclusive public spaces in an era of social inequalities that have been magnified by the pandemic.
By placing a sofa in a public space in the City of London, we are asking if comfort is a universal human right, while also commenting on the (in)equality of space in the city. Is public space truly public? Too much of the urban public realm is designed to keep people away.
During lockdown people have developed complex relationships with the space they call home. With Red Chester we hope to bring the familiar (or unfamiliar) outside into the city, and help bring people back out into public spaces that have become deserted over the last year.
The sofa is coloured red, its seat and backrest covered with thousands of tiny serrations — a reference to the type of negative architecture usually deployed in the public realm as a way to deter rough sleeping. In contrast, the serrations of Red Chester are spaced close enough together that the experience of sitting down is like being in a massage chair or an acupressure mat, helping to relieve tension and increase circulation.
Red Chester offers relief from the everyday pressures of life and work for those who choose to use it, while at the same time highlighting the plight of the homeless in London.