Pews and Perches: fourth edition

Location: Royal Docks
Date: 2023
Status: Temporary
Project Types: Street furniture
Client: Royal Docks

In the fourth edition of our Pews and Perches competition, LFA in partnership with the Royal Docks commissioned four benches to be installed in various locations around the Docklands. The open call invited designers to conceptualise a bench reflecting on LFA 2023 theme ‘In Common’ that would serve the local community and function as a useful public amenity.

The benches were installed in June 2023, and will remain in place for at least one year.

Winning benches

FLOAT by Akasaki Vanhuyse, Royal Albert Dock

FLOAT © Luke O’Donovan

Situated in Royal Albert Dock, 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.

FLOAT © Luke O’Donovan

Akasaki Vanhuyse is a London-based architecture and design studio established in 2022 by Japanese architect Kenta Akasaki and French designer Astrid Vanhuyse, following experiences at Matheson Whiteley (UK), Nendo (JP) and Marc Berthier (FR). Merging their perspectives of architecture and industrial design, they collaborate on a variety of projects including space, furniture, product, innovation and research. Their approach is driven by the search for creative, thoughtful and lasting solutions.

You can listen to Akasaki Vanhuyse discussing their bench here.


Round The Neighbourhood by Nicolos Makatsaria and Jericho Cabalan, London Design and Engineering UTC

Round The Neighbourhood © Luke O’Donovan

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.

Nicolos Makatsaria and Jericho Cabalan are a student team from UTC College, where their studies focus on the built environment and mechatronics.

Listen to the designers discussing their bench here.


Chit Chat Chair by Studio Groove, Royal Victoria Dock Floating Garden

Chit Chat Chair © Luke O’Donovan

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.

Chit Chat Chair © Luke O’Donovan

Studio Groove is founded by friends Andrew and Kate as a space for the architects’ creative thinking and handcraft projects. Having first worked together on their final masters thesis at Edinburgh College of Art – Crafting the Liminal, which exhibited at the RSA’s New Contemporaries – the two have continued to partner-up on the design and construction of everything from furniture to sheds to staircases.

Listen to Studio Groove discussing their bench here.


Together We Hold by Akmaral Khassen, Lyle Park

Together We Hold © Luke O’Donovan

Located in Lyle Park, 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 for passers-by to engage with.

Together We Hold © Luke O’Donovan

Akmaral Khassen is a RIBA Part 2 architectural assistant currently working in the interior architecture sector in London. Outside of her full-time job, she finds joy in creating digital prints and collages that open conversation about body’s rights and explore joy and softness associated with feminine forms. During Akmaral’s MA Architecture course, her main thesis investigated hidden homelessness among women in the UK. Through research and volunteering in shelters, it was found that there is a lack of access to menstrual hygiene and sanitation. As a result, her thesis was a design proposal for a female-only hostel in Tower Hamlets in London. The first digital print emerged as a planning and zoning strategy diagram that took a feminine forms as an inspiration.

Find out more about Together We Hold here



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