Public Benches in Public Places – Life in Florence

Benches 3

Piazza della Signoria bench 2Benches 4

Bench with Sami
Bench with Sami
Piazze della Signoria benches
Piazze della Signoria benches

Benches 2Benches 1


2 thoughts on “Benches”

  1. Thanks for creating this page. I’m currently researching ‘smart benches’ (which have wifi, USB charging and sensors). As part of this research I’ve been looking at benches in landscape architecture and archaeological histories. I’ve been reading an article on Florentine benches: Elat, Y. (2002). Seats of Power: The Outdoor Benches of Early Modern Florence. Journal of Architectural Historians, (61), 444–469. What is your take on the varieties of benches? Are they forms of civic and private conspicuous generosity? Are they attempts to foster a kind of public life?

    Is it OK if I use a couple of your images in a presentation?

    1. You’re very welcome Chris, and welcome to use my images as you will. In fact I had taken them, one day in Florence, to illustrate my own presentation, on benches, for our daily seminar, at the Monash University facility in Prato, that afternoon.
      Your comment inspired me to have a look back through my notes. Here’s an extract from my journal, relating to benches, and indeed to Elet’s article:
      “Examining the use of public spaces in this context, I was surprised to discover aspects of apparently mundane and commonplace features of the streetscape which had hitherto entirely escaped my notice: in emphasising the importance of benches in public places in Florence, Yvonne Elet said: “Outdoor public seating is an intriguing element in the history of Western architecture and urbanism” and went on to conclude that “there was a rich culture of al fresco bench sitting”. Benches were built in piazzas, streets, loggias, and on palaces. They were places for citizens to gather for political announcements, to debate politics, to receive news, to enjoy the theatre of life, and to make oneself known. A further intriguing dimension was introduced by our tutor, Emma, who indicated that these thoughts were approaching the idea of ‘gender and public space’. Perhaps she was alluding to the acceptable role of male or female in public spaces, in which case I misunderstood her; I began to wonder about the abstract idea of the gender of a given space. This led to an interesting discussion with my friend Aparna, who felt quite clear that public spaces such as piazzas were male spaces. They were dominated, she suggested, by males in use, and in artistic representation (statues). However she paused for thought when I suggested the opposite: My abstract thought, in light of what I had read by Elet, was of the space of the public square as being functionally feminine. I was imagining this space as functioning like the womb of the public: its foetus composed of embryonic ideas, thoughts, and performances, all being nurtured and all given space to develop.”

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