So me and Alex were walking through Victoria Embankment Gardens in London and I’d just given a long and detailed explanation of my feelings re. arm rests vs. no arm rests in benches. (Best summarised here)
Right at that moment, we emerged from the park and came across this oddity, which, as Alex commented, offers the best of both worlds.
You want arm rests? Sit in one of those cosy little nooks at either end. You want not armrests? Sit in the middle. You want JUST ONE armrest? (You weirdo) Well you can make that work too.
I wanted to get a picture of me sitting on the bench, but right as I went to go and sit down, a passing small child flung herself into one of the armrest seats for about 30 seconds before her parents dragged her away. That’s the thing about the bench. Despite its inauspicious position (at the side of a busy road, albeit one in a super central bit of London right by the Thames), it’s a compelling proposition.
So here’s the thing. Some benches have a very particular physicality to them which makes you WANT to sit down. Even if you don’t need a sit. It’s much like how well-designed bits of playground apparatus have a strong physical pull, even for adults who usually try and ignore those feelings. They make you want to engage with them on a bodily level. And you know what? I think that’s really brilliant.
This bench does the same thing. It’s a weird shape. Weird enough to make you almost question whether it’s even actually a bench, or some other object for some other long-forgotten, historical purpose, that you might just happen to sit on. (The other day in London Fields on the pavement I saw an ancient stone cattle trough with a tap at one end which had been repurposed into a planter, I should have got a picture)
To me, the bench looks vaguely nautical. Perhaps it’s because it’s by the Thames, but its shape, to me, seems like the kind of apparatus you see in marinas and ports and canals for hitching boat ropes around. Even the arm rests look vaguely like anchors to me. Admittedly, it’s all disproportionately shaped for that function, but I do wonder whether that’s what it alludes to.
The surface of the bench is unusually strongly curved, but entirely comfortable to sit on despite this. Clearly, the structure is completely sturdy and built to last, and the arm rests, despite only being attached at one point are made of beautifully coloured, strong metal, and feel of a very good quality.
Comfort of bench: 6/10 (There’s only so far comfort can go without a back rest, but it’s pretty good aside from that)
Capacity of bench: 7 – 8
View from bench: If you face towards the road… well, it’s a road. But if you face the direction I’m sitting, you can see a park, which is kind of nice I guess. 5/10
Accessibility of bench: Good quality, smooth pavements all round, dropped curves, all good.
Adventure level: Super central London, around 5 mins from the nearest tube. Low. 2/10