Vandal Resistance: The Anti-Social Design of Urban Seating in London and Milton Keynes 1970–1983
This dissertation, completed as the final submission for the V&A/RCA MA in History of Design, is a contemporary history of a particular form of ‘vandal-proof’ public bench, researched as part of a broader view on post-war street furniture and the changing nature of public space in Britain. As such it sits alongside a growing number of studies on socially-focused design and design for behaviour change. It calls on sources from the Royal Parks, Camden Borough Council, the Milton Keynes Development Corporation and the Design Council, and focuses geographically on the areas of London and Milton Keynes.
By using methodologies including object study, theoretical analysis, archival research and interviews, this paper seeks to trace the impact that concepts regarding design had on design products intended for public space. The central question is: ‘what values are apparent in the design of street furniture at this time?’
This question is explored by viewing the traditional park benches of the Royal Parks alongside the idealistic infrastructure designs presented for Milton Keynes. Together these two extremes form a context for a deeper analysis of the development of a radically different kind of metal bench, called the ‘011’ series from Macemain + Amstad, which was specifically designed and presented as vandal resistant, in line with the values of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED). The 011 bench design is considered amongst others featured in the ‘Street Furniture Design Index’, published by the Design Council in order to advise purchasers of street furniture.
Object analysis of printed ephemera extends to the investigation of four catalogues featuring street furniture related to Milton Keynes that included the 011 seat. The evolving design of this promotional literature informs key points throughout the paper regarding the changing nature of municipal authorities throughout the 1970s and early 80s and how this influenced design policy and resultant design.
The intertwining of objects, society, literature and culture results in a contextually rooted design history of a much-overlooked aspect of design and the built environment.