Chairs Matter

What have we learned today?  That chairs in public places are important.  

MIT researches think they know why cities are incubators for innovation. In a recent report, the MIT Media Laboratory’s Human Dynamics Lab proposed an explanation. And while they didn’t say “chairs” their conclusion was simply face-to-face interaction.

“What the new work shows, Pentland says, is that “a lot of the things that people have been arguing about for centuries are not actually things that need explaining. They just come from the basic pattern of social networks.”

It’s large, dense numbers of educated people that have the ability to interact with each other easily that fuels innovation, productivity, culture, and the overall success of a city. 

“…when the population of a city doubles, economic productivity goes up by an average of 130 percent. Not only does total productivity increase with increased population, but so does per-capita productivity.”

Architect and urban guru Jan Gehl says that simply providing places for people to sit down and get together makes an Intelligent City.

Finally, San Diego’s own Paul Jamason notices the lack of chairs in Balboa Park compared to his recent trips to city parks abroad. Anyone who has been to Bryant Park or Times Square in NYC knows this to be true. Where are San Diego’s great public spaces where people can sit down and talk, watch, think, and interact?

Photo by Paul Jamason,

Bryant Park in New York City

In the same article Jamason notes the resurrection of the Jacobs Plan from the dead. The combination of the empty, chairless plaza in Balboa Park and the resurrection of the Jacobs Plan inadvertently puts the spotlight on San Diego’s prioritization of cars over people.

However, if San Diego is to have an innovative, productive and prosperous future, it must make people (pedestrians) THE top priority. Private automobiles sitting on the freeway or in a parking space don’t contributed to innovation or quality of life in San Diego. Chairs can and do.

Walter Chambers

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One Response to Chairs Matter

  1. paul says:

    Thanks Walt!

    Regarding your SANDAG mid-city BRT tweets – any way we can appeal the exclusion of bike lanes, since they’re prohibited by this project?

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