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Competition open call: City Benches

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The LFA and Cheapside Business Alliance have announced their latest design competition for a new series of one-off public benches to be installed across Cheapside in the City of London, as the City Benches project returns for its third year. Now a staple in the Festival’s June programme, the project seeks to showcase emerging talent to hundreds of thousands of people as they spend time in the Square Mile next summer.


Whippet Good bench 2019 by Delve Architects – image © Agnese Sanvito


Building upon the success of the 2018 and 2019 City Benches competitions, architecture and design students, recent graduates and emerging architects are invited to put forward a creative bench design that can offer an imaginative addition to Cheapside’s public realm. The project seeks to champion sustainable and imaginative designs that will encourage the community to rest and take note of the landmarks, architecture and open spaces that surround them.


As part of the 2020 edition of the competition, entrants are encouraged to respond to the City of London’s ‘Health and Wellbeing Strategy’, and its focus on the mental and physical welfare of City residents, workers and visitors. This offers the unique opportunity to not only transform Cheapside – a leading London destination – with a place to pause, sit and relax but also create an intervention that encourages social interaction and forges a sense of belonging through design. In line with the LFA’s theme for 2020, the City Benches project seeks to continue an important conversation on the power of architecture at any scale, no matter how small, and the significant difference this can make to people’s experience and enjoyment of London’s buildings and urban spaces.


Entries will be judged by an expert panel comprising:

  • Anne O’Neill (chair, Cheapside Business Alliance)
  • Brad Smith (apprentice building control officer, District Surveyor’s Office, Department of the Built Environment, City of London Corporation)
  • Clarisse Tavin (group manager – Major Programmes and Projects, City of London Corporation)
  • Dieter Kleiner (director, RCKa Architects)
  • Ellie Stathaki (architecture editor, Wallpaper*)
  • Tamsie Thomson (director, London Festival of Architecture)
  • The Revd George Bush (rector, St Mary-le-Bow)


The winning teams will each be awarded £800 to manufacture and install their bench in time for the London Festival of Architecture 2020. Entrants are invited to submit their proposals by midday on Thursday 16 January 2020. The call for entries document containing detailed submissions and entry criteria is available here.




This past summer saw the second selection of City Benches winners showcase their must-see public benches across Cheapside. Featured among these was ‘Whippet Good’, an immediately loveable design by Delve Architects, inspired by their four-legged companion, Rocket. For the practice, participation in the competition resulted in their work being seen by a huge public audience, both in person and on social media. Alex Raher, Director at Delve, said:

“Being selected to design a bench for the LFA this year was exciting for us as a practice – it gave us the opportunity to push our design and fabrication skills to create something fun and unique for the City of London. The whippet’s sleeping form has a sense of calmness to it, and the perfect qualities to soothe the anxious minds of those working in Cheapside. The finished piece represents to us how playful design can improve public space, and encourage more interaction and mindfulness together in the city.”


Tamsie Thomson, director of the LFA, said:

“An annual favourite in the Festival’s competition calendar, we’re thrilled to once again be working with Cheapside Business Alliance to see the return of the City Benches for 2020. The project sits at the heart of the Festival’s mission to champion up and coming architects and designers and offers a brilliant opportunity to create a miniature masterpiece in the heart of the City, engaging audiences both in person and on social media, and making a positive difference to people’s experience of Cheapside’s public realm. As the LFA explores ‘power’ in 2020, there’s huge scope for interpretation and I’m really looking forward to seeing how a new round of entries brings the theme and brief to life.”


Claire Dumontier-Marriage, BID Manager of Cheapside Business Alliance, said:

“With the competition now in its third year, we’re delighted to be continuing our partnership with the London Festival of Architecture to support the amazing work of emerging design talent, and to showcase Cheapside as a leading London destination for business and leisure. Once again, the City Benches project offers the fantastic opportunity to create an intervention that will be seen by hundreds and thousands of visitors, residents and Londoners, encouraging everyone to stop, rest and enjoy this unique part of the Square Mile.”


Alastair Moss, Planning and Transportation Committee Chair at the City of London Corporation said:

“The City Benches competition is a fantastic opportunity for emerging architectural and design talent to showcase their vision in the heart of the Square Mile. We are committed to delivering a world-class public realm and this project will play an important role in engaging workers, residents and visitors in their surroundings.”


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