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Boston, Massachusetts

Jamaica Pond Bench

From bench to vandalism to art, this silly prank seat was funny enough to become permanent. 

How did a piece of guerrilla art find its home alongside Jamaica Pond, hiding in plain sight among Boston’s string of parks known as the “Emerald Necklace?” 

The park was designed by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead, and the benches that line the park’s paths all looked like you would expect. Until 2006, when a Massachusetts College of Art & Design associate professor named Matthew Hincman tried to do something about that. The result is the Jamaica Pond Bench.

The curious bench is u-shaped, having no discernible front side; only two backs. Hincman himself calls it a “guerrilla” piece of public art, which he first snuck into a row of benches without, shall we say, official Parks Department approval. According to Hincman, after he installed the bench: “It took the City of Boston approximately one week to discover that the bench was there, and then another four days to figure out it wasn’t a City approved project.” So it was removed with a slap on the wrist, but not without the admiration of the City Parks Director. With some encouragement from the very city agency that had hauled it away, Hincman sought — and won — approval from the Boston Art Commission to have it re-installed. Footings were poured and the bench put back, carrying on alongside the other benches around Jamaica Pond as art you can sit on.

Well, at least try to sit on.  Lying down on it seems like it would be a little easier.