The public have found a clever way to identify the need for public seating throughout Toronto. The #sitTo hashtag has been gaining momentum on Twitter as citizens take pictures of public spaces that could benefit from a place to sit.
Parks, streets and squares provide places that people like to hang out in, but without proper infrastructure people end up perching on planters and leaning on walls. Eventually they decide to move somewhere more comfortable. Providing seating is a simple way to encourage people to stay. This is the thought behind the concept coined by Toronto residents including Stas Ukhanov. When parks, streets and squares are filled with people, the city feels vibrant and occupied.
The movement went one step further as part of #100in1day. They took 20 Ikea chairs and placed them around town in locations identified by the hashtags. #100in1day is an event dedicated to small scale citizen led city engagement projects and interventions and #sitTO saw this as a perfect opportunity. They stenciled the back of the chairs with the hashtag and observed interactions with the public; not surprisingly they were well used. “We’re not pointing fingers at anyone, we just want people to reflect on that” says Ukhanov.
Can’t dance forever, great to take a #SitTO break every once in a while. #OpenStreetsTO pic.twitter.com/mPBjYbnCcz
— Ev Delen (@evdelen) September 18, 2016
The shift in opinions of loitering also plays a big part in this push for more seating. It is no longer perceived as undesirable to spend time engaging with people in the streets – it was once assumed that you were up to no good and that you should be moving on. Now we want to see people engaging in public spaces and making the most of the city. Seating is such a simple way to enable that. In the words of Kevin Costner, “If you build it, he will come”.
#TheatrePark square at lunch. Beautiful space but with no place to #SitTO, #PaleyPark comparisons are redundant. pic.twitter.com/02bqukNEkC
— Urban Cayman (@ProjectEND) June 15, 2016
Just people sitting & resting on gas meters for lack of benches @downtownYonge #sitTO pic.twitter.com/OieMOKAhUm
— Katia Osokine (@KatiaOsokine) August 5, 2016
According to council, there are almost 1700 public street benches, with anywhere from 100-200 added each year. Adam Popper, and Urban Planner at the City said that “Toronto has always been a sittable city, and it continues to be one… The problem is finding locations while coordinating accessibility, rights-of-way and desirability”. The #sitTO hashtag has done the hard work for them – hopefully the city will take on board suggestions that citizens using the #sitTO hashtag have identified, in the same way Panama City responded to the Tweeting Potholes. The internet has really opened up dialogue between the authorities and the public, and we will no doubt start to see just how affective this channel is when the city responds. Meet you in the square for lunch?
First photo courtesy of Spur Collective