Pews and Perches 2019

Location: The Royal Docks
Date: 2019
Status: Temporary
Project Types: Street furniture
Client: Royal Docks Team

In 2019 the London Festival of Architecture (LFA) and the Royal Docks Team (RDT) launched a new competition ‘Pews and Perches’ for a series of benches to be designed by emerging architects and designers, to be installed in Spring 2020 for the minimum of one year.

The brief sought for benches that would celebrate a fresh perspective on design, and offer imaginative places for the public to sit, relax and interact with the unique waterside setting. The chosen designs had innovative and creative visions for enlivening the Royal Docks’ distinct waterfront at the forefront of their proposals, from a bench incorporating changing facilities for swimmers to another using reclaimed marine buoys.


Peekaboo by Portia Malik

Peekaboo © Luke O’Donovan

Responding to the increase in popularity of open water swimming in the Royal Docks, Peekaboo is a playful seated changing space for swimmers, providing privacy when changing in and out of wetsuits. The sweeping freestyle stroke-inspired arm enclosures envelope and structurally support the users, while also incorporating hooks for a towel.

Peekaboo is supported by James Latham plc and fabricated by We Are Limitless Limited.

Royal Breath by Studio Who

Royal Breath © Luke O’Donovan

Royal Breath emerges as a kit of modular elements inspired by the industrial development and modernisation that characterises London and the Royal Docks. The diverse ventilation ducts are chained to create a meandering, playful and sculptural shape, which winds up from the ground looking towards the water. Its golden coating gives a distinct royal character, catching the attention of the public while also reflecting the changing environment and light throughout the day.

 Royal Breath is supported by Universal Spraying Ltd.

The Buoys are Back in Town by McCloy + Muchemwa

The Buoys Are Back in Town © Luke O’Donovan

Seeking to flip perceptions and provoke wonder, The Buoys are Back in Town sees simple and attractive Polyform buoys re-imagined into a modular seating system that can be an engaging conversation starter for everyone to enjoy. In challenging our familiarity with these ordinary objects, this bright, floating bench makes use of the particular and strange visual qualities of the buoy to provide a place for looking out across the docks, watching boats and aeroplanes – a seat suspended on air.

The Buoys are Back in Town is supported by Boat Fenders Direct

Roly Poly by Nasios Varnavas and Era Savvides of Urban Radicals, in collaboration with Millimetre and Sanne Visser

Roly Poly © Luke O’Donovan

Inspired by the signalling buoys and rope making traditions of a remarkably rich era for the river Thames, Roly Poly revives and reinterprets these once prominent elements of the Royal Docks’ history to create a playful and interactive rocking bench.

Semaphore by Parallel Collective

Semaphore © Luke O’Donovan

Semaphore explores the Royal Docks’ heritage through colour and material. The modular design references the maritime signal flags which are an international code system used to communicate with ships. Made from natural terrazzo, this bench draws upon the rich stone aggregates of the Thames’ riverbed. The resulting colourful “alphabet” celebrates the naval history of the area, drawing the attention of passers-by and reflecting the cultural diversity of the neighbourhood.

Semaphore is supported by InOpera Group, specialists in natural stone and terrazzo finishes, and Henny Ltd, building contractors and fitting partners.

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