If you grew up in a city, you probably spent a fair amount of your adolescence sitting on the stoop. It was where you met your friends, waited out hot afternoons, and, maybe, drank your first beer. At the risk of over-explaining them, stoops are a unique type of space—neither public nor private—that foster loosely organized communities in dense urban neighborhoods.
Belgian architect Julien de Smedt, who comes to New York often but is based in Brussels, was recently asked to design a piece of public seating by Danish manufacturer Vestre. During the research phase of the project, de Smedt’s team came across A Great Day In Harlem, Art Kane’s photo of almost 60 famous jazz musicians (including Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, and Count Basie) standing on a stoop in 1958. Intrigued by the concept of the stoop, they looked for other examples of stairs offering more than just vertical circulation, citing Rome’s Spanish Stairs and the Sydney Opera House’s staircases.
“We decided to incorporate the universal idea of using stairs as a sitting object,” writes the office. “A stepped bench… that not only serves as a bench, or table-bench, but functions as an urban auditorium.” The finished product, Stoop, can be aggregated in any number of ways. One Stoop creates a space for a chess game, two form a spot for a lunch break. Three will serve as an open-air theater, or even stadium-style seating for pick-up games.