HONG KONG — Good street furniture is not one of Hong Kong’s strengths, so when people here can’t find a place to sit outdoors, they do the most logical thing: they bring their own chair.
In natural gathering spots around the city you’ll come across a motley array of household chairs that have been placed outdoors and tied to a post or railing. You can see them at bench-less bus stops, or on steep stairways, sometimes with one leg trimmed so the chair can sit evenly on the steps. I’ve even come across chairs tied to trees in the woods that are never more than a 15 or 20 minute walk from any part of the city.
In the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Biennale of Urbanism and Architecture, which runs until the end of February on a piece of vacant waterfront land, designers Rosly Mok and Vanessa Chan have created a public bench out of discarded chairs.
“The stories behind abandoned furniture are precisely what makes them come alive,” they write as an introduction to their installation. “Their mystery and layers of history create sentimentality, and perhaps extra eagerness nad meaning. In terms of public usage, are the stories of abandoned furniture not more meaningful in comparison with the rows of monotonous and dead ‘public’ benches lined at the park?”
Like laundry drying on a street railing or a shop fronted by dozens of potted plants, discarded furniture domesticates the street and humanizing a public realm that is too often cold, bureaucratic and anonymous in its design.