Today I talked to Laurie Olin
about his book Be Seated
(ORO Editions, 2017). Olin’s interest in public outdoor seating in parks and civic spaces revolves around two poles: the first is a concern for aspects of the ordinary in our settings and actions, the apparatus and effects of the quotidian in our individual lives and experience; the other is the utility of public seating in the conduct and potential of our role as citizens and the establishment of place and community. A not inconsiderable aspect of both is the engendering of pleasure. In a democracy we are expected to fulfill two potentials – those of private citizen and contributing member of a community. When sitting on a bench or chair in a park or plaza we inevitably participate in the life of a particular space, city, and society while simultaneously pursuing our own life with its demands and aspirations. Chairs and benches in their many varieties and situations are the setting (pun intended) for profoundly simple, albeit important, and largely unnoticed aspects of our lives.
Laurie Olin is a distinguished teacher, author, and one of the most renowned landscape architects practicing today. From vision to realization, he has guided many of OLIN’s signature projects, which span the history of the studio from the Washington Monument Grounds in Washington, DC to Bryant Park in New York City. His recent projects include the AIA award-winning Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,