Meet the Designers: Pews and Perches (1)

‘Pews and Perches’ – a series of benches designed by emerging architects as part of the London Festival of Architecture (LFA)’s growing year-round programme – was unveiled across the Royal Docks in 2019. From a bench incorporating changing facilities for swimmers to another using reclaimed marine buoys, the benches represent extraordinarily imaginative responses to a competition organised by the LFA in partnership with the Royal Docks Team.

Together, the benches celebrated a fresh perspective on design, and offered imaginative places for the public to sit, relax and interact with the unique waterside setting. Architecture and design students, recent graduates and emerging practices were invited to enter the competition to create a playful series of benches, that can welcome visitors to the area throughout the next year. With innovative and creative visions for enlivening the Royal Docks’ distinct waterfront at the forefront of their proposals, the five winning teams were selected by an expert jury including Dan Bridge (Programme Director, Royal Docks Team), Tamsie Thomson (Director, London Festival of Architecture) and David Ogunmuyiwa (Principal, ArchitectureDoingPlace and Mayor’s Design Advocate).

Click on the player below to hear the story of the sites. Alternatively, you can also find the episodes on our Building Sounds podcast feed via Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsSpotify Pocket Casts, or by searching for ‘Building Sounds’ wherever you normally get your podcasts.



The Buoys are Back in Town by McCloy + Muchemwa

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

Peekaboo by Portia Malik [dock edge in front of The Crystal]

With the increasing 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.

Semaphore by Parallel Collective [Royal Albert Wharf]

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.

Royal Breath by Studio Who [dock edge in front of ExCeL]

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.

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

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.

More Media from LFA.

© 2024 New London Architecture unless otherwise stated.   |   Privacy Policy   |   Account   |   Site: ATGS