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Contest-winning ‘Pews & Perches’ installed in London's Royal Docks

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The London Festival of Architecture has unwrapped the five completed winning concepts in its contest to design a series of £1,500 benches across the Royal Docks in London’s East End

The winners are London-based McCloy + Muchemwa, Parallel Collective, studioWho from Spain, the ‘open collective’ Urban Radicals with Dutch designer Sanne Visser, and Portia Malik, who recently completed a master’s in architecture at the University of Pennsylvania.

McCloy + Muchemwa was also among those selected in last year’s LFA contest to design nine public benches in the City of London.

The Pews & Perches competition sought proposals for a ‘fun and creative place to sit, rest and play’, which could be installed in the regeneration zone this autumn and remain in place for a year. It was open to architecture and design students, recent graduates and emerging professionals.

The winning teams received £1,500 each to manufacture and install their scheme in the district, which is tipped for £314 million-worth of regeneration over the coming years. Judges included LFA director Tamsie Thompson, Dan Bridge of the Royal Docks Team and David Ogunmuyiwa, principal at ArchitectureDoingPlace.

Thompson said: ‘I’m delighted to see the first interventions of LFA 2020 installed and now sitting in pride of place along the Royal Docks’ waterfront. With each bench celebrating their unique waterside settings in a remarkably witty and playful way, together they offer Londoners, visitors and passers-by the perfect opportunity to engage with, take in and make the most of their surroundings.

‘We are grateful to the Royal Docks Team for sharing our mission to support emerging talent and showcase the difference that small-scale interventions can make to our public realm, as the benches will be seen by hundreds of thousands over the course of the next year.’

Planned developments in the area include a £1 billion Royal Albert Dock, masterplanned and designed by Terry Farrell with second-stage concepts by BuckleyGreyYeoman, Fletcher Priest, Cartwright Pickard, Maccreanor Lavington and Panter Hudspith. Fletcher Priest Architects’ £3.5 billion regeneration of Silvertown Quays also won planning in 2015.

LFA’s separate City Benches contest, now in its second year, saw emerging London practices Anna Janiak Studio, Astrain Studio and Delve Architects; artists Sarah Emily Porter and James Trundle; and architect Armor Gutiérrez Rivas deliver a series of £800 benches across the Square Mile in June. 

The winners

The Buoys are Back in Town by McCloy + Muchemwa [dock edge near Building 1000]

The Buoys are Back in Town by McCloy + Muchemwa [dock edge near Building 1000]

Source: Image by Luke O’Donovan

The Buoys are Back in Town by McCloy + Muchemwa [dock edge near Building 1000]

  • The Buoys are Back in Town by McCloy + Muchemwa [dock edge near Building 1000]

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.

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

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

Source: Image by Luke O’Donovan

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

  • 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.

Semaphore by Parallel Collective [Royal Albert Wharf]

Semaphore by Parallel Collective [Royal Albert Wharf]

Source: Image by Luke O’Donovan

Semaphore by Parallel Collective [Royal Albert Wharf]

  • 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.

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

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

Source: Image by Luke O’Donovan

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

  • 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.

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

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

Source: Image by Luke O’Donovan

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

  • 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.

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