Games Of Placement

Editor’s Note: Parks & Rec Business magazine presents the second part in a year-long series of articles devoted to park landscaping and grounds maintenance, Landscaper’s Corner. Please let us know if there’s a subject you’d like to see covered in this series, or if you have a unique project or perspective you’d like to share with your peers. Please drop us a line at

Quick Reference: Pre-Furnishing Inventory

• Know your climates

• Know your path and walkway traffic patterns, routes and intersections

• Know your trash and snow removal practices and patterns

• Know your trees, shrubs and wildlife


Site furnishings can be found in virtually any contemporary landscape, serving aesthetic and practical purposes. The people who inhabit these landscapes have certain perceptual (aesthetic) and utilitarian (practical) needs that site furnishings fulfill.

In this sense, a successful site furnishing design cannot be fully complete without some consideration to the practical aspects of how site furnishings are used and maintained.

From this standpoint, there are many small bits of advice that can be given to help make site furnishing placements more successful.

When talking about site furnishings, we are referring to consciously-placed objects that have a functional use, like benches, trash receptacles, bollards, bike racks, drinking fountains, lighting, or any other functional object.

So from the beginning, there are choices to consider that can affect people’s experience of your project, even before the furnishing arrives on the site.


The consequence of these choices may be felt most often when the furnishing’s color and material interact with the location’s microclimate. Microclimate describes the natural qualities of moisture, wind, temperature and sunlight that affect a specific location.

The interaction of these traits create conditions that affect the furnishing itself, as well as people’s experience in using it.

The color of a furnishing, or its surface coating, affects the amount of sunlight that is reflected or absorbed from the surface. Light-colored coatings and materials reflect sunlight, while dark-colored coatings and materials absorb sunlight.

A furnishing’s materials should be weighed against the climate it will be exposed to. Wood furnishings that are placed in dark and moist microclimates, for instance, may develop algae growth, and then a maintenance regime has to be implemented to counter-balance this.

Avoid placing wood furnishings in areas that experience sustained shade and moisture from buildings. Conversely, metal furnishings are more likely to store heat than wood or plastic.

On exceedingly hot days, metal furnishings may possibly become too hot for the human touch. One should avoid placing a dark-colored metal bench in full sun exposure. One way to address this is to allow plantings that provide shade during the summer months.

Recently, the urban microclimate has become an additional factor to consider in furnishing placement. Large, paved areas absorb excessive heat (known as heat-loading), creating an uncomfortably warm environment.

People sitting in benches placed in these areas may become dehydrated or develop heat exhaustion. Excessive heat and exposure to UV radiation can also result in the degradation of paints or applied coatings. Dark colored paints or finishes will inevitably fade when exposed to UV radiation. The color of the bench can help to mitigate these effects.

Ultimately, your vendor should be able to provide further and more specific environmental information about their products, but the key here is that color is an important factor.

Human Nature Placement

Benches are the most humanizing of site furnishings; they invite people to inhabit and occupy a space. There are three main types of benches available on the market: benches with backs, benches without backs and dual-backed benches.

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