“Sit-able” cities may soon be getting more attention than walkable or rideable cities.
Urban planners and landscape architects have recently been consumed by the idea of making cities more active and walkable to promote healthy lifestyles and outdoor activity.
Though they remain integral focuses of city design for tourists and locals alike, a new shift towards cities which place a greater emphasis on sitting is proving popular.
There has been a surge of pop-up restaurants across Australia’s major cities, and events such as Park(ing) Day that promote social inclusion and reinvigoration of central business districts. Sit-able cities would aim to create an environment which fosters a more permanent, participatory role in the community and society as a whole.
“Sit-able rather than walk-able cities are key, interdisciplinary focal points where the delight of ‘placemaking’ and cultural traditions of ‘watching the world go by’ merge with the sometimes conflicting domains of law and politics, economic development, public safety, gentrification and the homeless,” said attorney at law Charles Wolfe.
Essentially, when there are more places to sit, people are more likely to communicate and people from all spectrums and walks of life collide in conversation.
Wolfe believes the shift to a sit-able city would assist in enhancing society's understanding of place.
Sit-able cities welcome locals and tourists to sit down and immerse themselves in the culture of the place, whether it be through communication with strangers, eating food, or observing the movements of others. A sit-able city is inclusive and makes joining and participating easy for everyone.
Urban designers observe who is involved in creating places and what role they play in the process. Through the process of enlivening public spaces through a channel such as sit-ability, the community achieves a better public landscape for interaction and a stronger sense of place.
Exchange in its various forms is a prime function of town and city centres. With more built structures to foster the act of sitting, people can more easily exchange information, material goods or food. To encourage this exchange, it is important to provide seating and shelter.
Sitting is also crucial to allowing people to rest during their busy daily lives. Most people sit to eat, work, talk and relax. In order for these acts to enhance the sense of place, outdoor seating of various designs must be readily accessible for all.
Urban success relies on a constant hustle and bustle of people. Providing seats which offer inclusion and safety fosters a bustling urban city lifestyle.
Cities such as Melbourne are known for tables and chairs tucked into every little nook and cranny in the CBD laneways where people can sit and enjoy a coffee. This offers a great sense of place for both locals and tourists. Yet seating must go beyond outdoor dining to include free social spaces such as that in Federation Square.
Most major cities across the country have some unused or under-used spaces which could be turned into built environments with nature and seating, an integral aspect of place where those who wouldn’t usually meet can enjoy incidental conversation on a city bench.
A sit-able city is still an active and healthy city, but it moves beyond those aims to envelop social inclusion and placemaking.