An impressive street approach

By Jane Garcia 

Does your street furniture reflect the values and aspirations of your community? Is it creating a sense of ‘this is a place people want to be’?

Ian Dryden is an industrial designer with the City of Melbourne. For more than 19 years he has helped create and implement a range of furniture for the council – from seats to lighting and kiosks – and has helped use these elements as part of the revitalisation of the city CBD.

He says street furniture has evolved from being something councils ‘had to do’ to become a vital component of the look and feel of a city. Materials have reflected this change with the typical timber or lightweight steel construction being replaced by steel and stainless steel.

“The big incentive behind that was making it so it could be easily maintained,” Mr Dryden says.

“The original furniture had a kind of disposable mentality; if it’s broken then you throw it away. We have designed a system that could be refurbished at any stage. It is easy to remove.

“We’ve started to realise that there is quite a lot of work in maintaining painted finishes, they fade in sunlight and those sorts of factors. We’re going down the stainless steel direction because the great thing is that whenever you clean it, it always comes back to its original finish. It’s a good material and good for seaside suburbs where you get corrosion.”

He suggests some of the factors to consider when designing or purchasing street furniture, include ergonomics, comfort, respite and maintenance. Furniture should be easy to clean, easy to replace if it needs to undergo repairs, and should integrate with the environment to allow for practical considerations such as street cleaning and pedestrian access.

“When you choose a piece of furniture you’ve got to try and think about what it’s going to be like in five years’ time,” Mr Dryden says.

“We find people tend to look at the details of things rather than the big picture so  furniture and lighting and potholes on streets gives people a big impression about an area and a council. It is very important that these things are well looked after and well maintained.”

Hi advice is to also try and keep street furniture design timeless and fashionless.

The lifecycle of furniture is about 15 years, or up to 25 years if it is stainless steel, so it should not look or feel “like it came out of an age” or people will want to pull it out and replace it before the end of its natural life.

Different elements of street furniture should create an integrated look, with a suite of details where people can see a strong resemblance from one element to the other.

“Lighting has started to pick up a great deal because of the de-regulation of the electricity authority [in Victoria] and designers are now starting to have an influence on what poles and things look like,”

“Poles and lights are the biggest vertical element you have in any street. There should be a lot of care and attention taken with them because they really do add to the way a streetscape looks and feels.”

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