Oct 142014

Benches constitute the minimum common denominator for sociability. Hialeah is a city with a scarcity of spaces for informal sociability. Our goal is twofold. Firstly, to promote convivial and neighborly exchanges and dialogues, as well as a culture of leisure that includes “ shooting the breeze,” enjoying the passing of time and de-stressing, and is typical of the Caribbean and Latin American cities, towns, and villages where the immigrant population of HIaleah mostly come from. Secondly, on the basis of observation of current usage, we seek to further existing uses and thus make explicit a specific Hialeah bench culture.

Mapping is in process at our Panoramio’s page

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In addition, by zeroing in on street benches we are able to access the city from new vantage points, as benches intersect with advertising and aesthetic practices, transportation patterns, notions of time and value, etc. We decided to document the existing benches in the city and map them, along with an audiovisual approximation to the experience of both looking and using the bench, by including photography and audio of and from the benches and locate them in a city map as well as on google earth. In our expeditions through sidewalks and community center parks, we observed not only a scarcity of benches, but that these respond to three types:
1- the display/waiting bench (e.g. to wait for the bus, or for a car wash), which might be either public or private, and is often located in a space without shade and on the verge of traffic and pollution. This bench often carries paid advertising.
2- the spectators’  bench (e.g. around a baseball field or a children playground); and
3-the didactic bench, normally located in public recreation areas, facing a sign containing a list of prohibitions (e.g. no littering, no drinking, etc).

We are planning several activities, as emerging from these observation, including:

1- Further the potential of advertising/waiting benches by turning them into supports for visual and sonic art (by city artists, whether emerging, youth, and established), as well as for information of community interest.
2- Research the potential constituencies for bench usage, and the ideal indigenous design that would promote collective use and leisurely exchange.
3- Generate new configurations and arrangements for both existing and new benches, to be intervened and/or designed.2