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Meet the Designers: City Benches

In the Summer of 2021 the LFA revealed the winning benches for the fourth edition of City Benches. We chatted to the designers about their designs.

Click on the videos below to hear each of the designers tell us the story behind their bench.

Alternatively, you can download the City Benches self-guided walking tours by heading to our Building Sounds podcast feed via Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsSpotify Pocket Casts, or by searching for ‘Building Sounds’ wherever you normally get your podcasts.

It takes two by Arthur and Jane Wong of 10F Collective and supported by Smile Plastics, CNC Projects and Clever Mike [Nomura International]

As a tribute to the many inventive ways of occupying public furniture under the pandemic’s social-distancing restrictions, It Takes Two introduces a bend to the simple straight bench, creating a see-saw form that encourages dialogue between friends and strangers occupying either ends whilst maintaining physical distance. The bright blue colour recalls the historic default colour of public amenities in the City of London, such as that of decommissioned police phone totems still present in the area. The bench is wholly made from Blue Dapple panels, one of Smile Plastics 100% recycled and 100% recyclable materials.

The friendly blob by Jelly Collaborative and supported by Champion Timber, FabCutDes, OPM Furniture, and Dulux [Bow Church Yard]

The pandemic has affected us in a multitude of ways, depriving us of meeting up and socialising with each other. It seems we as humans are now craving these open public spaces more than ever. The Friendly Blob is a proposal that motivates us to take care of not only our physical health but our mental health. The blob encourages us to meet (socially-distanced of course) and explore the public spaces and architecture that London has to offer. Taking inspiration from the dense history of the City of London, the bench acts as a miniature of the Square Mile, encouraging visitors to explore and learn about the architecture of the city.

Quick Getaway by Ex Architectures with Flu-or Arquitectura and supported by Finsa UK + Rubio Monocoat [Bow Church Yard]

Quick Getaway is a project that highlights travel as a form of care. Unfortunately, many of us have been deprived of this throughout the pandemic. Which is something that has been particularly hard for those in dense urbanized cities such as London. The Quick Getaway bench creates a holiday inspired oasis in the heart of the city, providing a rest bite and triggering memories. Designed and Built by creative studio Ex Architectures, in collaboration with Spanish Architecture practice Flu-or Arquitectura. The wood used for the bench is thermally treated Galician pine and was supplied by Finsa UK. While the protecting oil was supplied by Rubio Monocoat.

Do you care about your city? by Nick Green and supported by Smith and Goat [150 Cheapside]

It's been said that 'London streets are paved with gold', but aren't they also gilded with the riches of the lunch break? The design takes fragments of litter - coffee cups, plastic bottles, takeaway packaging etc - and seals these within concrete and resin, elevating a litter strewn surface into terrazzo. Repurposing the detritus of the transient commuter city into a new object of permanence and status, 'Do you care about your city?' is a reminder that litter is not temporary, that while much of what we throw out every day is single-use it nonetheless has a lasting impact on our streets and our environment. The bench is supported and manufactured by Smith and Goat.

Sobremesa by Pebble Haus and supported by Dorado Jewellery, Lane Eight Coffee, Pensaer and Legge Studio [Royal Exchange]

Noticing the pressure of missing our friends and close ones during the lockdowns, Sobremesa provides a space for interaction where friends can catch up in the most natural way — over a cup of coffee. Sobremesa is the time spent relaxing after a meal to drink coffee, to while away at the table engaged in a relaxing conversation. The bench is made of jesmonite and coffee extracted from residual grounds sourced from local coffee shops, which have suffered a lot during the closure of the City. Pebble Haus invites you to have a cup of coffee, and to enjoy your little piece of sobremesa. This bench is supported by Pensaer London, Lane Eight Coffee, and Dorado Jewellery.

Monuments to Mingling by Sohanna Srinivasan and supported by Joyce and Joyce Joinery + Christian Spencer-Davies [Toynbee Hall]

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Plant Yourself Here by Lisa McDanell and supported by Mahers Model Makers [Leman Locke Hotel]

Benches are not very sociable spaces, typically facing outwards onto a busy road or away from a patch of grass. This project challenges this by proposing two reclined seats that face each other, encouraging visitors to interact while maintaining social distance. The scooping form allows users to recline, enjoy the natural feeling of the cork, and look up at the sky while smelling the scented plants behind their head. The project aspires to be a light-hearted piece of street furniture that encourages children to play, and provide a spot to have a short break in busy London life. In collaboration with Maher Model Makers.

Conversation by NVBL in collaboration with WebbYates Engineers and The Stone Carving Company [Aldgate Pump]

Conversation, pays homage to the history of material and exchange in the city of London. The design celebrates stone, stone craftsmanship and its natural architectural qualities whilst creating a public and intimate space of connection, inspired by the 19th century courting chairs. Conversation is a prototype to advocate the qualities and possibilities of developing stone design, stone technologies and rediscovering the use of stone structurally in architecture. The bench is made solely from stone offcuts, carefully designed and handcrafted, highlighting its natural durability, structural integrity, sustainability and beauty. The stone pieces interlock in a specific order of assembly, connecting and supporting each other, and can be easily disassembled when required for reuse. The design is truly a collaboration between architect (NVBL), engineer (WebbYates) and craftsman (the Stone carving company).

A Cuppa by The Mad Hatters and supported by Derwent London, UEL – Department of Architecture & Physical Design, BRILLIART, Jens Plants & Flowers [Middlesex St]

From matcha to chai, chá or sencha; tea is more than just preparing a drink. It is a cathartic ceremony that unites people, cultures and communities. Reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland’s Tea Party, where Alice’s fundamental concept of time is challenged, this bench invites you to pause... and have A Cuppa. The exaggerated scale of the delicate teacup and saucer, coupled with its playful patterns and bold colour scheme, brings a sense of light-hearted bliss to the city. Crowned with lush planting which alludes to the essential elements of tea, the bench injects an additional touch of nature to its setting.

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