Itu- faculty of Architecture-Department of Industrial Product Design, Turkey

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ITU- Faculty of Architecture-Department of Industrial Product Design, Turkey

Elmira Şener

ITU- Faculty of Architecture-Department of Architecture, Turkey


Although the kernel structures of cities have not yet lost their meaning in modern cities, numerous city centers in over-expanded cities of mega size, and urban spaces that extend on a large area, and the location of business centers at various and farthest urban zones, all cause people living in cities spend more time outside their houses in everyday life. The lifestyles of urban people increase the need for urban spaces. Urban spaces are a secondary home for urban people. While going to work early in the mornings, at bus-stops, at lunch break around noon, around their workplaces, while getting back home from work or when shopping with their family, likewise when they rest, take a breath, learn, stroll around, and enjoy themselves. People would like to enjoy the city to full extent, and feel as safe as if they were in their homes, and providing people with these facilities is among the task of the municipal officials. In this context, urban furniture is an integral component of urban spaces. It is a medium for the full utilization of the city. Deficiency or insufficiency of urban furniture may make urban areas seem incomplete. Urban furniture is an indispensable unit for the city, it is composed of units that make people feel the city and they differ in design, groupings, etc. according to spatial characteristics.

KEY WORDS: Urban life, urban spaces, urban furniture.


Modern cities, especially in developing countries, constantly grow due to unplanned immigration. Although this growth has not yet destroyed the kernel structures of the cities, it adds to the proliferation of town centers, diminishing the natural surroundings and parks, and to the unplanned increase of workplaces and makes urban life difficult. Life becoming difficult in cities that grow and became mega-sized causes working people start commuting in the early hours of the morning, involve in short or long distance traffic, and return home in the equally dense traffic and end another day exhausted. This unchanging process almost never changes for working people. Habitable urban spaces are one of the important solutions that would alleviate this process and make it tolerable. Urban spaces include residential spaces, workplaces, green areas that can be referred as the lungs of the city, circulation areas that ease all kinds of traffic flow, shopping areas, adjuvant areas that support social life by interaction, and that provide people rest, information, entertainment etc. outside the working hours.

The concept of urban life is meaningful with the best possible utilization of urban furniture that exists in urban space to meet the needs of the inhabitants. Cities are loved and adopted more, if they are given affection and healthily lived in. Increasing the level of objectives of life in cities is possible to the extent that cities are well-planned and equipped according to the psychological and physiological structure of the inhabitants.

Aimed at defining these objectives, the structure of this paper will, upon definition of urban life, reveal the positive and negative aspects of urban spaces that make such life possible, and it will further show the favorable and unfavorable examples, and evaluate the case and comparatively determine the results. In our age where the percentage of living in cities increase more than small towns and villages, and mega cities proliferate, we consider an issue like this in order to highlight the importance of urban fittings that will add meaning to the lives of city dwellers that reach high rates of population, and remind the authorities of the importance of this issue with its striking points.

The Concept of Urban Life

The concept of urban life cannot be considered in a narrow sense that is people breathing urban air, living in horizontal or vertical house systems, working in urban offices and commuting from home to work and back home. There must be activities on the way in these comings and goings, which complete these circulations and which hold one more in these places and make one feel that they live in a city, such as urban spaces and their fittings that exist, and direct people and are used for short periods of time.

As living means existing in a period of time, urban life means existing with all the features that the term city has to express. If living is mentioned together with the concept space to mean residing somewhere, the concept of urban life refers to an integrality of people that constitute a population and the environment of the residential areas where human population live in. When living is considered as a heading towards a goal, there has to be city plans and urban fittings that lend themselves to easy achievement by the people to their goals without problems and loss of time. If this facility renders it possible to feel this ease, urban life also expresses happiness. Experiencing for the first time and reliving a feeling, an event or a situation as a person, experiencing the city, bringing together this feeling with one’s surroundings, and urban space, and reliving the urban space is a very important part of human life.

Historically, the lives of cities that has city plans, and with a fortress-like growth, distributed radially from a center may show different identities: they may have multidirectional plans, their location may be very unusual and their typical characteristics like their historical places, cleanliness, contemporariness, abundance of parks, or skyscrapers may add to the remarkableness of their identity. Naturally, the identity of the city would influence the lives of its inhabitants. For instance, it can be clearly thought that the young population would be very high in a city with many universities, or that old people would predominate in a city the historical features of which was preserved and provided with facilities that give excellent health services to the old, and which provides restful places.

Urban life is a field of research for urban sociology. While this field of research investigates the social relations of those who live in cities, how urban spaces and fittings make this life marked may be a theme of study on its own. This paper will relate the issue and its surroundings in terms of urban space, and observe the lives of inhabitants who live in these places. In this context, Istanbul is a typical example of a city that has an unbalanced and unplanned growth, due to excessive immigration.

Istanbul as an Urban Area

Old areas of settlement in Istanbul were subjected to restoration for historical and touristic environment concerns. Both the efforts of the related authorities and the expectation of income by the inhabitants of these areas made these areas better cared for and preserved. The attempts, though not out of high consciousness, to make the urban environment and urban furniture look better in this area are easily noticed. Areas like Beyazıt Square, Sultanahmet Square, Çemberlitaş Square, the surroundings of Topkapı City Walls, the environment of Galata Tower, the environment of Zeyrek Mosque(İston) etc. accommodate fittings appropriate for restoration purposes as well as for the historical surroundings. In some of these areas some inappropriate fittings can be seen in spite of their historical texture.

Apart from densely historical areas, in some areas where there still a certain proportion of old structures exist but which lost their historical nature due to rapid and unplanned changes, for instance in areas like Aksaray, Ayvansaray, Atışalanı Square, Bakırköy, Bebek, etc., both the lives of urban people and the plans of urban areas were developed in a manner which does not get along with the historical structure of the area and in a standardized, simple heaps that go at each other but do not let each other breathe. Almost all of the fittings here are the surroundings formed by the people living and working in the area. Visual pollution is sometimes cured by trees and plants. Most discomfortingly, in fittings of these surroundings, all the cables that have to be under ground randomly hang out from above and shop signs race with each other in terms of size and eye-catching colors to the expense of all urban view. No planning is observed in general appearance, which would add a sort of rhythm, an order, etc, and thus have a good impact in putting urban life in order. Since a myriad of cars are parked at the sides of the roads, people’s use of urban furniture is obstructed and the surrounding is virtually being choked. It can be said that relaxing spaces in this matter are parks. It is only local parks which are at least a little farther from the dense flow of people and traffic. Indeed, it is possible to see the bus-stop, a kiosk, and urban furniture here which is located considerably well around the park. But, again the oversized signs for the kiosk, or the like cause visual pollution and are discomforting. Inhabitants indifferently attach small-scale ads on the trunks of electric poles. In a corner of an urban area, lots of kiosks, telephone booths etc are heaped without any relation to each other since they are placed by different institutions.

Though it can be seen as a sort of detail, glass-recycling containers are left randomly on the edge of a pavement. Whereas, taking into consideration the circulation of the inhabitants of the city on those pavements, garbage or similar containers may be left at more suitable places, for instance they can be left at semi-concealed recesses near a park.

Urban furniture to be placed in front of a historical building should show more respect to the building. This matter could be inspected in terms of both design and material. At least these urban objects could be produced with transparent materials so as not to disturb the historical picture behind. Automated teller machines, mini representatives of banks, should not be placed in front of historical buildings. They should be positioned in a corner farther from historical buildings and they should be designed respectful to history even when they reflect their own age. Parking lots should not be around or in the vicinity of a historical building. Mobile vendor carts, which make money for the unemployed urban dweller, should be at service in environment-compliant designs and at especially reserved locations to be determined by the municipalities, if they are really a solution for unemployment.

A formidable disorder of shop signs exist everywhere in Istanbul. Nipping this in the bud is only possible with a collaboration of Metropolitan and district municipalities and by raising awareness among the inhabitants of the city. Of course sanctioning is a method to overcome this, but precautions should be taken for this situation which is one of the main factors that pollute the general picture of urban spaces. Furthermore, billboards are not urban furniture that should be left on their own on grounds that they yield income. These should be employed in an orderly systematic manner without excessive use.

Although districts like Avcılar, Bağcılar, Bostancı etc, which develop outwards Istanbul they are not in the city border since the city develops further, and they differ not according to the distance but according to the development of the district. And their fittings differ parallel to their development. While Bağdat Street, a thoroughfare extending to Bostancı acts as a street for strolls and shopping for the inhabitants, the development of the main street bound to Avcılar has become a setting for the emergence of large workplaces and promoted superhighway transportation.

On the other hand, urban spaces like Sultanahmet Square, and Istiklal Street the historical characters of which are preserved and which together with their fittings, and urban furniture make it possible for local and foreign tourists to stroll around and rest can be counted among examples of urban spaces in Istanbul that can be deemed good.

Other Examples of Urban Space

To exemplify urban spaces from big cities other than Istanbul, of course we can count many environment-friendly, planned urban spaces in other big cities which are of high life value and of service to needs. Here it would be appropriate to mention large cities of developed countries of the world:

Terraux Square in Lyon, France is designed so that all historical buildings including one statue could completely preserve the characteristics of their period. Broad openings are left around the statue, and sitting groups with awnings and tables are placed at its two sides to enjoy the square. Pedestrian circulation area that passes across the square is symbolically separated at one side with columns and at the other with barriers of seat-high. The quadrangle area right in the middle of the square is furnished with water-jet fountains in squares without obstructing the pathway, but giving you an idea that this is made so as not to upset the space in the middle. Water plays may be done; none of the 69 water jets wet anywhere other than their square area. The lighting systems under the water jets make them look unusually beautiful at night. While the designers, Christian Drevet and Daniel Buren rearranged Terraux Square, they took special care in choosing the flooring material for the ground and ensured that the historical buildings in the square were seen in constantly changing reflections during day and night hours. The reason of their desire to obtain such a view is to ensure a more conscious experience of historical beauties, instead of filling the square with unnecessary urban furniture (Cerver, 1997).

Sank Hans Torv Square in Copenhagen, capital city of Denmark is a historical square. It is located at the intersection of six roads and on the corner where two streets intersect. It is open to both vehicle and pedestrian traffic on both sides. The opposite side of this traffic is a parking lot. The square is furnished with a modern pool with water plays in the middle. Occasionally pools and water plays as an urban fitting can be made use of with statues. Water adds liveliness to the statues. The peripheries of a few trees in the square are furnished with seat units rising from the ground. There is a historical kiosk on a corner in the vicinity of the buildings. Such a large square was furnished very little so as not to upset the historical characteristics of the buildings. When the square is filled with crowds of people the parking lot on the opposite side of the buildings relaxes the square and balances the density of people. The urban units in the square are: historical kiosk, statue, seating units on the ground, trees and the water plays unit (Cerver, 1997).

In a project developed as a coastal rearrangement in Barcelona, Spain, a substantial part of the superhighway on the coast was abolished, and the road was redirected at both ends towards the city. The buildings in this arranged area diagonally situated towards the sea, not vertical or parallel to the sea. Thus a system of triangle areas was formed. Vehicles are forbidden to enter the public area which is developed as a strolling area. Lots of palm trees were planted in the area. Palm trees hang out to the shore in scattered clumps. Benches are placed between clumps of palm trees. Trees, taking into consideration their growing and leafing out in the future, as urban units here are the biggest in number. This is followed by the lightning poles in number. The number of benches comes third. We cannot even see garbage bins in the area that defines the openings and width of the area. The coastal strolling area is like a passage between the buildings and the sea (Cerver, 1997).

Robert F. Wagner Jr. Park project in New York, USA, designed by Machado & Silvetti Associates, is surrounded by World Trade Center and Hudson River in South Manhattan District. The square which is near high buildings and skyscrapers is in a location to provide a calming effect for the people from the neighborhood. On the river side of the square which has a view of the Statue of Liberty a symbolic entry to the square was designed. This entry adds meaning to the square when looked at human perspective and distance. The benches placed around strolling paths and some stairs provide the inhabitants with the possibility to rest, relax, and strolling around. Other than very high square lighting poles, the lighting units assembled on the strolling paths from above makes it safe to use the square at night (Broto, date: Not existing).

In addition Jacob Javids Square in the Finance Center of New York, hosts crowds of people during lunch hours on weekdays and accommodates the people from the neighborhood. Benches reign as urban furniture in the square designed by Martha Schwarz, designer of Beloging Company. The benches that curl in circles are best remembered with their seating position and semispherical plant heaps in their middle. It is not possible to find another urban space where seating units are used in lots but are not disturbing in terms of their arrangement.

Vanpaku Kingdom Park in Japan is an example of urban space which is established on a vast land and furnished with especially children-oriented activities. Opinions from philosophers who are experts in children’s development were made use of in the main theme for the arrangement of the square. Accordingly three main area was designated: those named “Vanpaku Fortress” and “Rainbow” are designed for the physical development of children and the third urban area named under the concept “Friendly Animals” is designed for the development of imagination in a tranquil medium. The concept “Vanpaku Fortress” is a playground with varying activities like climbing, walking, slides, etc. “Rainbow” concept is enriched by fountains, pools and water plays. In this playground where rainbow is obtained by the reflections of sun rays in water jets, the existence of other toy objects like paddle wheels help children with their physiological development as they play with water. The urban space that constitutes the concept “Friendly Animals” are important design elements like strolling areas surrounded from three sides by trees, bird parks, bird observation areas, bird houses and insect observatories. The most important urban furniture in this third concept are direction signs, information signs that explain nature and its features, and signs with symbolic expressions. The third concept area will help children develop their imagination and capacity for thought in a tranquil medium. In addition statues of peace are vital elements of this urban space which will give children a sense of living in a peaceful world (Sasaki, 2001).

Urban Furniture

Urban areas, introduced with their positive and negative examples, and units as their urban fittings are generally named as urban furniture. Although it falls contrary to its “mobile” sense they have definitions like “street furniture”, “urban furniture”, and “strassen möbel”. These units which are used in the furnishing of urban areas come in many types. What’s more some of them have a common value of use in almost all urban areas. Although some are used more in certain areas they can also be used in other areas of the city if needed. To better define urban furniture, perhaps it is more appropriate to make a general classification of urban areas, they are:

1. seating, relaxing, resting areas for intensive use by the inhabitants,

2. culture, art, entertainment and recreational areas,

3. dynamic areas of communication which makes human circulation possible(Satir, 2001).

Urban furniture which is used in all three groups:

Pavements, ramps, planting flowering units, bus-stops, traffic lights and traffic signs, signs of direction and information, general and customized/lighted and unlighted information signs, “you are here” signs, clocks showing time, units showing atmospheric conditions like thermometers, barometers, garbage bins and containers in terms of cleanliness of the city, telephone booths, newsstands, food counters, florist counters, ATMs, magnetic bus-ticket vendors, toilet cabins, flower beds, water play units and water canals, pools, fountains, children’s playgrounds, statues, open air exhibition areas, exhibition units, shades and other pergolas, units giving information in recreational areas, billboards, various seating units, bicycle parks, barriers, ground units like tree stumps and manhole covers etc. including anything that can be needed for use as an urban furnishing unit. Although it is not quite right to apply a precise classification to all this urban furniture, to roughly classify:

  • Urban units commonly used in all three groups: Pavements, tree stumps, manhole covers, ramps, all kinds of lighting units, planting and flowering units, signs of direction, garbage bins or containers for environmental cleanliness, etc.

  • In areas of intensive use by the inhabitants of the city for sitting, relaxing and resting, the seating units which provide inhabitants some rest in tranquil are counted at first. Of course all other urban furniture may be present in these areas. However they are not of priority and they have complementary character. A proper exemplification of this is the intensive seating groups of Finance Center, New York. Planting and flowering may be done to strengthen the tranquilizing effect of a place where people sit and socialize, and urban units that meet the requirements of people while resting may need to be furnished in the same environment.

  • Culture, art, entertainment and recreational areas: Included in the urban furniture of priority in these areas are children’s playgrounds and all kinds of urban fittings that make edifying and entertaining physical, intellectual, and spiritual activities possible while people enjoy their leisure.

  • dynamic areas of communication which makes human circulation possible: as its name suggests the urban furniture of priority in this group are urban units of service which are intensified around human and vehicle traffic. These are primarily bus-stops, barriers, newsstands, ATMs, normal and electronic ticket vendors, signs of direction and “you are here” signs, some counters to buy necessary things while commuting. As a certain limitation is not appropriate, other urban furniture like seating units, billboards etc. will be used along with units of priority.

Despite the apparent standards for the use of some urban furniture in urban areas, the usage of some of this urban furniture, the contents and the philosophical dimensions of the designs of the urban planners or the landscape architects that plan the area may differ dramatically. For example, there are strict requirements to comply with the standards for lighting fixtures, length and interval of poles, and open air light bulbs etc. in terms of illuminating power in the lighting of main streets. However, the designer may have a freer choice in the lighting of areas like parks and gardens. As another example, it is compulsory to comply with the preventive standards for the children in the employment of children’s playgrounds.


It should be taken into consideration that cities will be denser in terms of population in the future and that the cities in the future decades will grow more, that people will be happier if they can live the city together with its social side and interact more with others rather than confining themselves home, and in this context the importance of urban spaces will grow like a snowball. With the increase in population cities that extend and grow outwards should consider the future human life and happiness as important, and should consider urban areas and spaces in creating urban life spaces. In this consideration, urban spaces and urban furniture should not be needlessly exaggerated, but they should be considered so as to meet the psychological and physiological needs of urban dwellers.

First and the foremost, it is necessary to eradicate urban sprawl, and bring a disciplinary solution to excessive heaps and bundles of signs, electric cables, automobiles, etc. that cast a shadow to the city and the peaceful life of urban inhabitants.

Urban furniture and all urban fittings should be considered within the philosophical entailments of urban life, and the fittings should be performed without excessiveness in numbers and layouts, taking into consideration high-priority needs. In a context where empty urban areas do not mean much, urban furniture is of undeniable importance in urban life.

But this importance should be considered:

● with a humanitarian viewpoint to better the lifestyle of inhabitants of the city, their rate of development, their expectations from the future, their interaction with each other, the delight they get from urban life, and their sociability, and to serve their needs in urban life;

● with a viewpoint to match urban units with their environment, to get urban relaxation in the face of rapid development, to preserve the city, to get rid of the negative processes that lead to plenitude, excessiveness, and corrosion especially in historical districts and buildings, and to have a more open and clearer exhibition of the spectaculars of the city;

● upon synthesis of the two viewpoints above, there will be situations when the former or the latter will be of priority according to location or condition, or sometimes both should be equally considered. While some urban furniture is raised from the ground and some are produced and erected in their place, we have to think about the man of tomorrow, and the cities with their philosophical dimensions.


In the inspection of both positive and negative examples from Istanbul the studies and resources of İston A. Ş.-Urban Design Group were employed.

Cerver, F. A., 1997. Redesigning, Urban Landscape architecture-City Squares and Plazas, Watson-Guptill Publications, New York, P: 8-11.

Broto, C.,(Date: Not existing) New Urban Design, Arian Mostaedi Publications, Barcelona, p:144-151.

Sasaki, K., 2001. Element & Total Concept of Design-Urban Signage, Graphic-Sha Publishing Co. Ltd., Tokyo, p: 22-25.

Şatır, S., 2001. “Ürün Tasarımı Bakış Açısı ile Kent Mobilyaları Sınıflandırılması”, I. International Symposium for Street Furniture-Civilized City, Civilized Citizen, İston, p: 184-185.

Communication address, phone / fax number and e-mail address

Secil Satir,

ITU Faculty of Architecture; Department of Industrial Product Design

Taskısla, 80191; Istanbul, Turkey

Phone: +90 212 293 1300

Fax: +90 212 251 4895


Elmira Şener,

ITU Faculty of Architecture; Department of Architecture

Taskısla, 80191; Istanbul, Turkey

Phone: +90 212 293 1300

Fax: +90 212 251 4895



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