Edwin Heathcote, the FT’s architecture critic, describes public benches as the seat of civilisation. After several lyrical paragraphs – link here – he comes down to earth. We learn that it was only as recently as the 19th century that the public bench became a symbol of the civic city.
To modify his ideas: the bench will suggest that the station is a place capable of caring for and welcoming passengers. He recalls seeing, in Edinburgh’s Princes Street, a bench with a brass plaque stating simply, “Remembering J.C.H. Who was often tired.”
Even benches currently being built to discourage rough sleeping, with extra arms and dividers, would be better than nothing – especially when trains are delayed.
‘Statement benches’ like London’s temporary benches in the shape of open books, seen across the capital last year are not advocated.
New Street passengers would welcome a few simple benches on each platform, if not as Heathcote’s “symbol of the democratic city — of free, accessible and equitable public space provided by the city for its citizens”, but as a basic amenity provided by a station administration which cares for its high-fare-paying passengers.