There is a layer of the public architecture that has become so familiar that we barely notice it. Street furniture has the capacity to define a city, to locate it and to anchor us within it. Benches, bollards, streetlights, signs, barriers, post boxes, phone booths – they are the physical manifestation of public infrastructure, a network of goods between architecture and the body.
In this book, Edwin Heathcote, architecture and design critic of the Financial Times, looks at the cultural impact of street furniture using photography as a measure of how these things have become indispensable components of the cityscape. Based mainly in and on London – but including New York, Paris and Budapest – Heathcote uses history, personal reflection and the lenses of photographers to examine the status of these urban artefacts in both the contemporary imagination and the city streets themselves. It looks at the changing landscape of the cityscape and the way in which street furniture has been adapted to address new technologies, the culture of surveillance and shifts in taste, orthodoxy and material culture.
On the Street looks at the language of street furniture reflected through the glaze of photography and contemporary culture. It is a book about the elements of the streetscape which can exert an increasing impact on our interaction with the cities we inhabit.