The Sit-able City is a phrase coined by environmental and land use lawyer Chuck Wolfe. This new idea goes hand-in-hand with the better-known urbanist movement of Walkable Cities. Urban planners across the globe are now embracing the concept of walkability as numerous studies show the positive health and environmental impact these re-envisioned cities have. Wolfe suggests the option to simply sit down and enjoy your city is something we should consider perhaps even more so than pedestrian traffic. Three Calgarians have taken it upon themselves to improve their city and stand up for your right to sit down.

The Bench Project is the brainchild of three locals with a love for their community who felt there was a lack of public space on Calgary’s busy streets. Deciding that the traditional route involving endless phone calls, funding and regulations would be unable to deliver the immediate result they were after they choose a different route. Street Seats, a New York City initiative that involves the creative and informal installation of urban perches, provided the motivation for The Bench Project’s founders. Wanting something similar to Street Seats in Calgary they took it on themselves — with little inspiration from guerilla art projects and a quick trip to Home Depot they were in the bench bombing business.

The anonymous trio constructed a handful of colourful, freshly-painted benches and then, under cover in the darkness, delivered them to local shops. Store-owners discovered these brightly decorated offerings upon arrival the next morning accompanied by a friendly note from the creators. The bench builders aren’t trying to solve all of the cities seating issues and certainly don’t plan on becoming full-time wood workers.

Talking to Freq they explained some of their thoughts and ideas around the project and where they would like to see it go from here. “We can all add to the city in our own little way,” says one of the group. “We can be really good at pointing fingers and relying on other people to do what is needed and what we’re saying is take that responsibility, take ownership over your city.” In addition, they want to show that you don’t have to be an urban planner to contribute to a city’s betterment. “There’s paved streets and sidewalks everywhere, huge amounts of public space that we don’t view as public.” The Bench Project hopes to encourage people to see these areas as an open canvas for creative expression through city improvement projects.

It’s easy to feel helpless in a big city or that you can’t make a difference but The Bench Project has proved otherwise. For the cost of a night on the town they were able to start a dialogue about an issue normally overlooked. “Basically you have to be super Nike and just do it!” One of the female members said, referring to the fact that you don’t need to have the whole idea mapped out, you just have to get it started.

You can keep up with the trio’s endeavors on their twitter @benchprojectyyc. Better yet, start your own movement or get involved with community projects already underway. There’s no one better suited to improving a city’s public realm than it’s denizens.


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