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Pews and Perches installations revealed in Royal Docks

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Top from left to right: 66CO2, On the Cobbles, Submarine Cables, From Trash to Treasure, Now is the Time to Moor Off, The Flow Bench © Luke O’Donovan

The London Festival of Architecture and the Royal Docks Team have revealed the designs for the fifth and final edition of the Pews and Perches design competition, which sees a series of bespoke public benches delivered throughout the Royal Docks.

The competition called for architecture and design students, recent graduates and emerging practitioners to deliver bench proposals that explore creative ways to use and reuse materials and take inspiration from the Royal Docks, its proximity to the water and the communities who live there.

In total 25 benches have been delivered across the Docks over the 5-year arc of the competition since 2018, with 9 benches from past years still in situ, and an additional 6 added this year. Every year the project has elevated students, recent graduates and emerging practitioners, often earning them their first commissions.

This year there has been a particular focus on engaging with the community around the Royal Docks to inspire and shape the designs. One bench design team partnered with UTC College, where the architects worked with students to give them the agency to have a voice as to what they want in their local area. Designing a tile that responds to the question: “What do you want for the future of your local area?” Another of this year’s designers ran workshops with local community groups to record their memories of the area in a clay tile, to be displayed upon the bench as a public gallery.

This year’s winning designs respond to the Mayor’s vision of London transitioning to a circular economy set out in the draft London Plan earlier this year, creatively embracing, exploring and testing circular economy principles in their design.

The winning teams also had the opportunity to gain extra and advice and support through the LFA mentor programme. This year Tom Kendall from Wayward is an LFA mentor who has a huge amount of experience delivering public realm projects across London and will be on hand to guide this year’s designers as they develop and install their visions.

Explore the Pews and Perches installations while listening to our guided podcast and hear directly from the designers. Click here to listen!

The winning designs: 


© Luke O’Donovan

By Panta Rhei Collaborative x Miles Dean

With support from the Wellcome Trust and LB Newham

66C02 reuses concrete – often given a bad name for its ecological footprint – in different forms and densities, all repurposed from existing construction sites and championing the material’s structural, functional and sculptural qualities past its first life.


On the Cobbles

© Luke O’Donovan

By Poacea

With support from Forest Recycling Project

Taking inspiration from the Docks’ history as a thriving trade hub, steel-banded timber crates are dropped on the promenade to provide a place for passers-by to rest and ruminate.


Submarine Cables

© Luke O’Donovan

By Studio Green

With support from Benchmark Design

Constructed from rope using traditional rigging knots, the bench’s wave-like form reference’s Silvertown’s history manufacturing submarine cables – large insulated wires laid across sea-bed connecting distant continents and countries.


From Trash to Treasure

© Luke O’Donovan

By Katie Fisher and Siraaj Mitha

With support from Müll, Sustainable Design Studio and UEL

Exploring creative and playful ways of reinterpreting waste materials, From Trash to Treasure is adorned with timber tiles that share the opinions of young people living in the area, gathered in a workshop with students at UTC.


Now is the Time to Moor Off

© Luke O’Donovan

By Studio_Underbar

With support from the LAB-083, Tate & Lyle and Raya Groceries

By repurposing sugar byproduct into functional public seating, Now is the Time to Moor Off sparks a dialogue between the past and present, while also reaching towards a speculative future that embraces the principles of the circular economy.


The Flow Bench

© Luke O’Donovan

By North-Bound Collective

With support from HFM Architects, justfacades and Michelmersh

Paying tribute to the history of the Docks, The Flow Bench is a storytelling hub that re-connects residents with their local area and champions sustainability in its materiality and ethos.


Dan Bridge, Programme Director, Royal Docks Team said: “The Royal Docks Team, in partnership with the London Festival of Architecture, is delighted to unveil the fifth and final edition of the Pews and Perches design competition. Over the past five years, 25 unique benches have been installed across the Royal Docks, celebrating emerging architectural talent whilst championing sustainability within the built environment. These benches have transformed the spaces they occupy, telling stories of the area’s distinct heritage and regeneration and connecting people with the places around them.

“At a time of climate crisis, it is more important than ever that we seek solutions which reduce waste and embrace the principles of a circular economy. This year’s cohort embody this ambition, demonstrating what is possible when the creative and functional combine.

“As we conclude this journey, we are excited to see how these remarkable benches will continue to inspire and contribute to a more sustainable future for the Royal Docks and London as a whole.”


Benjamin O’Connor, Director, NLA said: “We are delighted to reveal the latest iteration of Pews and Perches around the Royal Docks for LFA2024. The competition has provided more than 25 young and emerging designers with a platform to showcase their forward-thinking and original designs on a global stage. This has been possible thanks to the innovative and successful partnership between the London Festival of Architecture and the Royal Docks Team over the past 5 years and we are grateful to them for helping to drive LFA’s mission to encourage and support a wide breadth of young talent.”

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