Pnehaus converts inflatable outdoor seating for use in protests

Inflatable bench used for protests

Rhode Island design studio Pneuhaus has converted a series of outdoor inflatable benches into self-defence devices to “de-escalate” potentially dangerous situations for students taking part in protests at universities in the United States.

The design is an elaboration on Pneuhaus’s Street Seats, inflatable tubes fabricated “to bring a sense of play” to public spaces, according to the studio.

However, the studio said that it was motivated by recent confrontations between police and pro-Palestinian protestors at campuses in the United States to modify the design.

Inflatable tubes used for self defence
Pneuhaus converted its inflatable public seating into self-defence devices

Last week, the studio shared a post on Instagram demonstrating the ability of the objects to blunt the force of oncoming objects, from rolls of tape to step ladders.

“We felt compelled to find a way to help protect these students given the failure of their administration,” said the studio

“We quickly realized that the techniques used in Street Seats could be adapted to a smaller modular unit that could serve as seating most of the time, but be used as a shield when things escalated.”


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Pneuhaus demonstrated how the device functions

The benches are lightweight and built “like a Zodiac boat”, designed to be durable enough to withstand being outdoors.

“The material is so durable it would take a sharp metal blade to cut, which we hope police are smart enough not to wield in these chaotic situations.”

In order to modify the design, handles were added on the back, similar to those found on a hand-held punching bag and velcro was attached to the side so that the inflatable tubes could be linked together at their sides to form walls.

“The large round shape is impossible to grab with one hand like most shields and the softness could hopefully reduce injuries on both sides,” said Pneuhaus.

Man holding cushioned barriers
The devices were designed to be lightweight and extremely durable

“It is a shame that a tool like this could be necessary on a college campus, but this is the situation we find ourselves in,” said the studio.

“Inflatables are fun and immediately change the atmosphere when we install them in a place, hopefully these pieces we are sending out will only be used as seats, but it will be interesting to see if their softness is able to de-escalate a situation in the field.”

Protestors at Columbia University in April 2024


Architects and planners call for boycott of Columbia University after protests

Pneuhaus said it wanted to support the protestors in light of the recent police actions in reaction to student demands for universities to cease funding to organisations profiting off the ongoing Hamas-Israel war.

It said that a number of the inflatables have already been sent out to unspecified universities.

So far, the protests have led to the arrests of thousands of students and others across the country.

deflated Pneuhaus bench
They are inflatable and easily transported

Last week, Dezeen reported on a group of architects and educators who called for a boycott of Columbia due to its authorisation of force on its campus in New York City, which is privately held.

Concern over the damage caused by the ongoing war in Gaza has been a topic amongst architects, with the UN releasing a report that it could take until 2040 to repair the damage.

The photography is courtesy of Pneuhaus. Comments have been turned off on this story due to the sensitive nature of the subject matter.

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