Cities create encounters. Public spaces play a vital role in fostering interaction in cities. Jose Subero and Paula Colchero, two residents of Amsterdam and the creatives behind Ruilbank, have combined design and reading to promote social interaction at benches in public spaces.
Ruilbank is an intervention on Amsterdam public benches meant to create sharing public spaces and trigger interactions among people through the exchange of reading material. In 2013 they attached beautiful metal clips to ten benches around the city and filled them with reading material.
‘The response has been unexpected. Vandalism was not an issue at all. The neighbours, who lived closed to the benches, engaged with the project making sure that the clips stay. Even some homeless citizens who hang around the parks became guardians of the clips’, explains Jose.
Jose and Paula contacted various municipalities of the city of Amsterdam. Four of them positively replied to the initiative and gave Jose and Paula in-kind support and the permission to use the public benches. ‘We wanted the city administration to get involved and feel part of the project to enhance its quality”, explains Jose. They also partnered with a local newspaper and some magazines which wanted to gain more visibility.
Ruilbank with the morning newspaper Het Parool
‘Our intervention in Amsterdam came out of a daily observation of how citizens connect to each other in the city. There are not too many spaces in Amsterdam that invite people to connect’, says Jose. However, they observed some kind of anonymous connection among citizens. ‘They fold the newspaper after reading it and left it behind at the bench, most probably for somebody else to read it; a common scene in public transportation like buses and the subway’.
Aga & Omar at the #Ruilbank #Oosterpark
Jose’s and Paula’s initiative goes beyond sharing reading material in the clips. Their intention is to create a whole circular system where many parties, including citizens, engage with the initiative, interact and all profit from it. Their final objective is fostering interaction in the city. To this purpose we agree that public spaces matter.
Can design alone promote social interaction? Paula believes design in our time should aim for a lifestyle that goes back to basic principles, using the knowledge we have obtained on the way.
In 2017, Ruilbank has even been part of the 10º Biennale Internationale Design Saint Étienne.
@Image courtesy of Alexandra Caunes and Julio Boscos