Stoop Bench

Philadelphia is a city of stoop dwellers. Stoops entered into the vernacular of American architecture during the colonial times. The townhouses that line the streets of center city and the myriad surrounding neighborhoods all have stoops. The Philadelphia stoop functions as a fundamental social meeting place. Like a bench, the stoop is a marginal space. There is no way to know whether its occupants are coming or going. And in fact this does not matter. The stoop is a liminal site – it is a place which is as much about transition as it is about pause. I wondered if it would be possible to capture the essence of that indigenous behavior, so entwined with its site-specific nature, in order to have more flexibility to invite similar social behavior in other contexts than the entry to the home, on a block of homes on the grid. Moving the essence of the stoop off of the typical urban grid seemed like a meaningful challenge for this invited project. In doing so, this experience could be translated to a park or perhaps into a district without stoops, where businesses thrive and, although there is ample opportunity for social behavior, there might be little space to sit. Part of the challenge in distilling a form for this bench was in attempting to capture the scale and the proportions of an idealized stoop, while thinking of it as a kind of a product. Most urban benches allow for people to sit next to one another – 3 or 4 across. While this type of design provides an affordance for couples, it is not overly social for groups of 3 or 4 people. The Stoop Bench creates opportunities for small groups. And because of the height, people can also stand and talk with sitters who are perched on the higher tiers. The Stoop Bench considers the stoop as an architectonic prototype suitable through its form-factors and use of materials and technology for mass-reproduction. Designed for Designphiladelphia 2009. Photos by Clint Blowers.