Cityscape Amenities

SOME of the most useful items of street furniture function more out of inadvertence than design. Trash receptacles with flat tops, for example, do not work well as trash receptacles but do work well as small tables. Fire standpipes are often the only sitting available on a block. Most such amenities are unintended. Why not intend them? They would cost little or nothing - a few lines on a plan - and if it's early in the game, they might be had for the asking. Here are some possibilities: A sitting ledge - about a foot deep, 16 to 20 inches high.

A shelf ledge for rearranging packages and sorting papers.

Glass or steel walls - useful to women as mirrors for checking makeup, to men for checking trouser lengths.

A ledge low enough to tie one's shoelaces on. Don't laugh. Watch how men use a fire hydrant.

Chiming poles. People love to touch or rap on objects as they pass by, and if this makes an unusual sound, so much the better.

-William H. Whyte, in `City: Rediscovering the Center'

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