City, public space and urban furniture in times of crisis

04 of July '20

Smart city - small architecture in public space
From the series "Outdoor spaces - solutions, trends in design 2020".

There is an ongoing debate among architects, designers, urban planners, but also manufacturers of urban furniture about public space in times of blight. How to maintain social ties despite the distance? What can we do to find our way in the new urban reality? How to take care of the environment and natural resources? Tracking these discussions, we have observed three emerging trends: smart city, localism and neighborhood relations.

1 The turn to the idea of the smart city

As experts note, the topic of smart city returns in times of crisis, when it is necessary to think about the future. Such a watershed moment is currently an epidemic, but also pressing environmental issues. The coronavirus has made us realize, as Nobel laureate Olga Tokarczuk wrote in one of her columns, that we are not the masters of creation, the world does not belong to us. It's high time to take care of mother nature. In this period of transition, of crisis, city managers can turn to the concept of smart city, which has been very well defined by Polish researchers on this issue Danuta Stawasz and Dorota Sikora-Fernandez:

Smart city (simply translated as "intelligent city") is an innovative idea aimed at making sure that cities (urban areas) are managed in a modern way, using the latest technical means offered by the latest technologies (including ICT), in accordance with the principles of ecology, with a tendency to save resources and achieve the expected results.

z kolekcji Fin Komserwis z panelem fotowoltaicznym, zbliżenie

Seat from the Fin Komserwis collection with photovoltaic panels and USB charging sockets


Three concepts are key here: cutting-edge technology, ecology and resource conservation. Seats from the Fin Komserwis collection with photovoltaic panels, allowing USB outlets to be powered by solar energy to fit into this definition:

  • charging electronic devices,
  • lighting of urban furniture (additional option),
  • use of the Internet (additional option).

Urban furniture from the Fin collection is innovative not only because of its smart amenities, but also because of its modern design and modularity - it can be combined into larger structures.

Leżak Millo Leżak Millo

Millo lounger


2 Turning to locality

In an interview, architect Wojciech Kotecki notes that designing larger public spaces, meeting places so that this large area makes it easier to maintain social distance is unlikely to work. He says that designers and urban planners should turn to locality and create markets in each neighborhood. Then we are in contact with people from the same neighborhood, so there is less of an epidemiological risk.

Architect Jakub Szczęsny, on the other hand, stresses that people will flee from big cities to small localities and there create new identities for these places, new public spaces. This interest will help both local authorities and local activists.

It is worth remembering that these new local spaces should be tailored strictly to audience groups. So if we are creating a meeting place for young people, let there be urban furniture that allows freedom of behavior and use of new technologies, for example.

  • Urban furniture with smart technology from the FIN collection, where you can freely charge your smartphone or laptop.
  • Seat with elevation Lido Komserwis - the modules included in this urban furniture can be spaced individually, arranged linearly or put together centrally in groups and used freely at different levels. An additional panel is an "imitation seat on the backrest" - something young people love.
  • Millo lounger - allows you to rest in a reclining and semi-reclining form, plus it has a small table.

If there are a lot of seniors in a local community, let's take care of park benches that are designed in such a way that they promote conversation, for example, picnic sets from the Millo collection.

Zestaw piknikowy Millo
Zestaw piknikowy Millo

Millo picnic set


Squats (from Komserwis' Flow or Lido collections) are also a good idea, i.e. backrests where you can rest without sitting down. This is often the preferred form of momentary "stopping" in public spaces for the elderly. Seniors, stopping to rest or chat with a neighbor, do not necessarily want to sit down so as not to put additional strain on their spines when standing up. A squat is the optimal solution for them.

Przysiadek Flow

Flow squat


3 Turning to strong relationships, e.g., neighborhood ones

The Institute of Design in Kielce announced a competition entitled. "Public space in times of pandemic", whose goal was to identify the most interesting projects that allow for better functioning in public space during and after the pandemic.

Two equal main prizes were awarded to projects whose main goal is to build a neighborhood community:

  • Neighborhood Support Board, by Julia Piwowarska, is a proposal for an information board to enable communication between neighbors and provide mutual assistance.
  • Give Me a Sign, by Marta Kwiatek, is a system of boards to be inserted in windows for communicating with neighbors. On one side of the board is a graphic message that neighbors read, thanks to instructions received with their boards. Each board contains an obverse with a graphic sign and a reverse with a description.

As reported by the organizers:

The jury appreciated the important element of building a neighborhood community - crucial both in times of pandemic and after the pandemic is over. The relatively low cost of production, accessibility and ease of use of the proposed tools make the jury see the indicated projects as extremely apt responses to the current situation and the anticipated economic crisis.

Smart city, locality and strong neighborhood relations - these are the three elements worth leaning on when creating and adapting public spaces in times of crisis. This is an important suggestion for designers, urban planners, as well as city managers, local government officials and local activists.

For more information, visit the company's KOMSERWIS Sp. z o.o. page on the A&B portal.

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