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Young architect wins Berkhamsted cemetery benches contest

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Emerging architect Andrew Ingham has won a competition to design a series of cemetery benches in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire

The project architect at Denizen Works was chosen from 50 anonymous entries by an expert panel and online public vote, winning the £1,000 top prize for his ‘Cruciform Bench’ scheme.

The jury described Ingham’s stainless steel and solid oak design as ‘nice minimalist, economical and contemporary … with the cruciform structure hinting at religious influences on the site’.

The ‘Family Seat’ by Ania Khodabakhshian of Iran and the ‘Human Hive’ by Ivana Linderova of London meanwhile won joint second place prizes worth £500 each.

The competition organisers are awaiting the outcome of a lottery funding application to realise the designs.

The contest, launched in September and backed by The Friends of St Peter’s, sought proposals for new ‘beautiful and well considered’ seating in various locations within the town’s 1.3ha Rectory Lane Cemetery. 

Participants were invited to submit designs for up to eight individual benches or a composite scheme for all new seating structures throughout the space.

Commenting on his win, Ingham said: ‘The intention was to create a simple and elegant bench with a strong visual identity that would complement the cemetery setting. I’m delighted to have won the competition given the number and quality of entries, and look forward to realising the project with the Rectory Lane Cemetery team over the coming months.’

Rectory Lane Cemetery, around 500m from the ruins of Berkhamsted Castle, is the burial ground for nearby Grade II*-listed St Peter’s Church on Berkhamsted High Street, originally built around 800 years ago.

The cemetery, which opened in 1842, is no longer open to burials, and is being transformed into a ‘vibrant and diverse contemporary garden of commemoration’ as part of a Parks for People restoration project.

It currently features an ‘un-coordinated’ variety of wooden-slatted benches and metal benches along with three ‘left-overs’ from a railway station seating renewal programme. In the centre lies the 1934 stone and timber Seat of Remembrance, commissioned in memory of Brigadier General Richard Mildmay Foot.

James Moir, convenor of the Rectory Lane Cemetery project, said: ‘With so many cultural influences informing the designs, the Rectory Lane Cemetery Project has, as part of the Lottery Funded Development Phase of the Project, learnt so much about the possibilities for creating an exciting seat sculpture trail in the cemetery.

‘We eagerly await the final decision as to whether the lottery will be providing the capital funding for the delivery of the project. If successful, we shall be investigating the potential for turning the winning entries into real seats. Equally, even if a prize has not been won, we may be contacting individual entrants to develop their designs further when we come to plan and install all of the benches on the site.’

He continued: ‘Given the rich variety of entries, it has been a challenging choice and we are sincerely grateful to all participants for sharing their marvellous visions for seating in this sensitive site.’

The following composite schemes also received commendations:

  • The Nightingale and the Glow Worm by Thom Brisco of Chan Brisco Architects
  • Benchscapes by Joel Geoghegan of Johnson Naylor
  • Haptic & Perceptible by Natalie Weinmann
  • A Seat on the Horizon by Geoffrey Clamour of GofredHym
  • A Seat to Remember by Kevin Potts

The following single entries also received commendations

  • Bridge of Memories by Silvia Mrazova
  • Light & Heavy by George Barer of Lands Projects
  • Fallen Still by Sarah Jones-Morris of Landsmith/True Bespoke
  • A Bench for Everyone by Steven McCloy of McCloy + Muchemwa
  • Voroni Bench by Amaobi Ike
  • Memory Circle by Ivo Nenov
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