An Urban Oasis: Street Signs That Charge Our Gadgets

What does "rest stop" mean in an urban setting with no car? Answer: A place to charge your phone.

There’s nothing wrong with the traditional park bench, a place to stretch your legs and catch your breath, except for its wasted potential. How many of us will sooner cram into a Starbucks than lounge outside because public seats lack the simplest of conveniences: access to electricity (and maybe Wi-Fi)?

Street Charge is what design studio PENSA calls an "urban intervention." It’s a solar-powered rest stop for the New Aesthetic, a place for your phone to sit dedicated to squeezing in a 5-minute email check without killing that last remaining sparks inside your smartphone battery.

Think about it: The urban professional doesn’t need gas, Funyuns, ample parking or a patch of grass for their kids to run around like a typical vehicle commuter. The only thing most of them need is to top off is their mobile phone of choice. As of today, there’s a whole infrastructure of coffee shops and bakeries that fill this role in big cities—not so differently than gas stations fill the role of rest stops where public funding grows dry—but it’s a relatively lousy solution. Much like you’ll end up buying a bag of chips to assuage your guilt for using a gas station bathroom, so too will you ingest sugary lattes and fatty pastries to borrow a power outlet and a reliable internet connection from Caribou Coffee.

And that’s what makes PENSA’s vision interesting. It’s nothing mechanically complex that needs massive amounts of real estate to implement. Rather, it’s a solution that could fit in our current public infrastructure of street signs tomorrow. It’s just smart design. And if it only came with a caffeine dispenser and a Wi-Fi hotspot, we’d really have something.

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