A Place to Sit and Play

The London Festival of Architecture (LFA) and the Royal Docks Team (RDT) have revealed winners of the fourth edition of the Pews and Perches design competition, which sees a series of bespoke public benches throughout the Royal Docks of London this year.

Following the success of the previous years, the competition invited architecture and design students, recent graduates and emerging practitioners to deliver playful and creative bench proposals that celebrate and transform the Royal Docks as a place to sit, rest and play. Designers were asked to respond to this year’s LFA theme of ‘In Common’, answering the questions: how do we create and shape the space we share: our city? How do we make the most of what we have in common – and explore the things we don’t?

Now in its fourth year, Pews and Perches highlights the transformative impact of small-scale interventions in the public realm and offers visitors and residents alike unique spaces to sit and make the most of their surrounding public space. Encouraging new talent, this year one of the winning proposals was created by a student team from LDE UTC, whose campus is in the Royal Docks area. “LFA are proud to give new, local talent a platform to showcase their skill, with winning benches being installed for a year following the festival,” says the organisers.

Chitchat Bench by Studio Groove

Resembling two barrels that sit together on the quayside, the Chit Chat Chair’s curved form hugs its sitters and creates a moment of refuge within the Royal Victoria Dock. The bench’s S-shape brings two users into an unusually intimate composition, with the aim of sparking spontaneous conversation and encouraging people to discover what they share in common.

Location: Floating Gardens, Royal Victoria

Together We Hold by Akmaral Khassen

Together We Hold celebrates women standing together in the face of violation against them and their bodies. Four figurative women form a joyful and fluid ensemble of bench ‘legs’ that support the bench structurally, as well as its sitter. The bench’s playful form and bright colours create a collective moment of joy in Lyle Park for passers-by to engage with.

Location: Lyle Park

Round the Neighbourhood by Nicolos Makatsaria and Jericho Cabalan (student team from UTC College)

Round The Neighbourhood reuses materials from one of last year’s Pews & Perches benches to create an interactive seating arrangement with circularity at its core. One revolving central seat is surrounded by others of varying heights, sizes and colours that each represent the different lives that coexist in The Royal Docks. The bench invites its users to ‘go round the neighbourhood,’ bringing people together to share stories, exchange cultures and learn from each other.

Location: UTC College

FLOAT by Akasaki Vanhuyse

FLOAT is a round, faceted bench that takes inspiration from maritime objects and the nearby curved wharf. By cutting and layering deadstock bricks, the bench draws on the material as a symbol of the local area – a nod to the industrial brick buildings that surround the bench – and subverts material conventions by creating a round, soft shape that provides an interactive seating area and meeting spot for the public.

Location: Royal Albert Wharf