For the last few months the city government have been redecorating (is that the correct word here?) one of the parks near my house. The have added some fancy looking street lights, made new walkways and put up new fences around the canal, all in all making it a nicer place to be. As part of this redecoration they have also put up little groups of tables and chairs where people can sit and chat. For some reason, I suspect it is a case of prioritizing design over function, their choice of chairs fell on dinky little backless stools – hardly conducive for relaxing in the park. Just a few days after the park was opened to the public the old men who frequent it had brought their own chairs to sit in rather than use those uncomfortable little stools. If they used the stools at all it was as footrests, as they are quite low.

While the stools installed by the city were bolted to the ground – you wouldn’t want people to steal them – the old guys just left their chairs there. I guess they simply couldn’t be bothered to drag their old chairs to the park and back again every day, and since Taiwan is a country full of polite people, no one took them despite the fact that it would have been easy enough. The result was that that you had a bunch of random old chairs standing around in the park at all hours. I guess this wasn’t appreciated by city government because when I passed by a few days ago I noticed that several of the dinky little stools had been replaced by several proper benches and the old man chairs were all gone.

I have seen this kind of thing over and over again, all over the world and I think it is an interesting phenomenon. Architects and designers can design all kinds of fancy things but if they aren’t practical, people will either modify them or circumvent them to use the equipment and the spaces they have access to as they see fit.