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LFA and Network Rail announce design competition for train station benches

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LFA and Network Rail (NR) have announced ‘Sitting Pretty’ – an open call for new ideas for seating for the capital’s mainline train stations, to be installed next spring ahead of the London Festival of Architecture 2020.


As the Festival strives to promote positive change in our everyday open spaces, this design competition seeks an engaging new solution to transform station seating, and to brighten the experience of London’s stations for Londoners, commuters and visitors alike. Architecture and design students, recent graduates and emerging practitioners are invited to submit proposals that showcase a creative vision for these seating provisions and can inform a prototype for how a future of station seating might look.


City Benches 2018 – Studio Yu x tomos.design © Agnese Sanvito


Owned and operated by Network Rail, Britain’s railway infrastructure gets millions of passengers to their destinations on a daily basis. With significant opportunities to make a positive design contribution to the public realm within stations, the competition will see the creation of fun and imaginative seating provisions, tailored to passengers and passers-by as they sit, wait and rest. Entrants are encouraged to consider how they can incorporate elements that could readily be replicated across six of London’s largest railway stations during next year’s London Festival of Architecture.


The competition will be judged by an expert panel, including:

  • Anthony Dewar (Professional Head Buildings and Architecture Safety, Technical and Egineering, Network Rail)
  • Will Hurst (Managing editor, Architects’ Journal)
  • Tamsie Thomson (Director, LFA)
  • Paul Priestman (Director, PriestmanGoode)


This competition builds upon a successful partnership with Network Rail in the delivery of ‘Happy Street’ – Yinka Ilori’s transformation of an unloved railway underpass in Wandsworth – and a striking sub-station mural by artists Nick Woodford, Matthew McGuiness and Jason Page to reflect the bustling food hub of London Bridge. By transforming the ordinary environments surrounding them, both artistic interventions made a huge difference to the experience of the people using these spaces every day.


‘Sitting Pretty’ also follows the success of the City Benches project, run in collaboration with the City of London Corporation and Cheapside Business Alliance. With two editions of the competition over the past two years, these much-loved public benches have each offered an exciting new addition to the City’s street-scape and were enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of people.


Those interested in applying are invited to submit their initial expressions of interest by midday on Monday 11 November 2019 for consideration by the competition judging panel. Up to ten shortlisted participants or practices will then be invited to develop a design concept and will be awarded an honorarium of £400 each. Winning designers will then be awarded £5,000 to manufacture and install their benches, ready to be unveiled to the public when the London Festival of Architecture begins on 1 June 2020.


The call for entries document can be found here.


Tamsie Thomson, director of the London Festival of Architecture, said:

“With the LFA now a year-round celebration of our capital as a hub of architectural experimentation, this competition offers a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate the power of design in everyday places. The challenge is now on to transform people’s experiences of waiting and spending time in train stations into something memorable. We are grateful to Network Rail for sharing our vision and excited to continue expanding our partnership in order to showcase emerging architecture and design excellence in London and its positive impact on the public spaces that form part of our daily lives.”


Franke Anatole, Principal Architect at Network Rail, said:

“The quality and style of seating says a lot about the way transport operators care about their passengers. Ergonomics, touch and feel of what we sit on will often determine our degree of comfort and satisfaction with our immediate environment. But many current designs often repeat past faults and are triumphs of efficiency driven style over substance.  Which is why we’re delighted to support this opportunity to empower emerging designers to create a number of prototypes that will challenge current thinking and explore future concepts around the not so humble station and platform bench.”




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