Atlantic Cities

Please, Take a Load Off on Copenhagen's Free Street Hammocks

Please, Take a Load Off on Copenhagen's Free Street Hammocks
Jair Straschnow

Some cities discourage long uses of public furniture by ripping out benches or giving them ridiculous, uncomfortable seats. Not Copenhagen: This chill 'burg practically begs its citizens to vegetate for hours with a new, alfresco arrangement of body-hugging hammocks.

The unconventional fixtures, called "Off Ground," appeared this summer on a boardwalk in the heart of the canal-streaked city. With their fetching red-and-blue color schemes, they beckon wayfarers from afar to come and take a load off – munch a sandwich while gazing over the water, say, or dream about the lazy days they spent as children basking in their own backyard hammocks. If visitors wants to ratchet up the activity level a bit, they can stand up and transform the slings into their alternative form of swings.

Transporting people back to their childhoods was part of the purpose of this street furniture, according to the designers that made it, Jair Straschnow and Gitte Nygaard. The duo seems bored with staid, mature-looking public spaces; they'd rather that civilians frolic around in them as if they were at the playground, according to Straschnow:

Play is connected with no material interest, and no profit can be gained from it. However, Play is most commonly associated with children and their juvenile-level activities, and all playing facilities designed for public space are scaled-down to kid’s size. Looking further into public areas, the (adult) facilities on offer sum up to seating, normally benches, where comfort is definitely not a priority. Considering how essential Play is to our well being, and how predictable our public space is, OFF GND (off ground) is about up-scaling playing elements combined with seating alternatives – hanging, floating, swinging, laying – one size fits all.

The child-forward theme of the hammocks fits right in with the designers' previous public installations, which include a strange jungle gym that encourages "purposeless action," public lockers for homeless children, and a disturbing but useful project that teaches South Africa's kids to build eco-friendly, low-cost coffins.

Interestingly, Copenhagen isn't the first city to deploy street hammocks. In 2009, a waterfront park in Long Island City got the hammock treatment and lawn chairs. Artists have installed guerrilla hammocks in Brooklyn and Los Angeles, and one devious fellow went so far as to slip one into the border fence in Istanbul. Meanwhile, heroes of the public domain are working to transform Hamburg into one giant swingset. At this rate it wouldn't be much of a surprise if a city develops a hammock district.

Have a look at the "Off Ground" furniture, made from steel piping and durable, recycled fire hoses, but be cautioned that it might make you sleepy:

Images by Jair Straschnow via Designboom

John Metcalfe is a staff writer at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

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