A series of witty and challenging benches by emerging architects and designers are unveiled this week at some of London’s largest railway stations, following a design competition organised by the London Festival of Architecture and Network Rail. From a playful oversized rocking chair to seating that uses the clay beneath Londoners’ feet to absorb the pollutants around them, this engaging series of new installations demonstrates how inventive architecture and design can make a real difference to the everyday travelling experience in Britain’s railway stations.
For the London Festival of Architecture, the commissions are the latest in a series of public installations that harness and celebrate emerging architectural and design talent, while improving London’s shared spaces and connecting people with new architecture and the buildings around them. For Network Rail – already responsible for many of Britain’s finest buildings – the series is part of an enhanced focus on applying the highest design standards across Network Rail’s built environment, whether it be new stations and signal boxes or bridges and benches.
Over 70 design teams responded to an open call for entries, and a challenge to consider how better station seating might look, with the potential for winning ideas to be replicated across stations managed by Network Rail in the future.
The five new benches are:
- Beluga by Hylemo & Ai Build
Hyelmo and Ai Build have combined their expertise in digital fabrication and 3D printing to create seating that challenges the way furniture in the public domain is produced. Beluga explores the application of 3D printing to bioplastics to create waste-free furniture, offering limitless forms and intriguing passers-by.
- ConvoStation by The United Suburbs
Charing Cross Station
ConvoStation is a brightly coloured oversize rocking chair, and a fun station bench where people – parents with children perhaps – can pass the time while waiting for friends or a train. At a time of social distancing, it reminds us of the joy of safe human interaction, while generating an awareness of the spaces around us through motion.
- Lacuna by Nick Tyrer with Victoria Philpott
Nick Tyrer and Victoria Philpott have brought together seating and striking planting through a design that offers a spatial experience while remaining functional and comfortable. Lacuna offers a sense of security and personal space on a large station concourse, while also creating a much larger visual impact upon the identity of the station.
- Reclaim, Re-invent, Re-purpose by Atelier La Juntana
London Bridge Station
This bench takes inspiration from the complex relationships between railway lines, stations and the cities they serve. The design treats reclaimed timber track sleepers with steam bending and digital CNC forming techniques, creating geometries that recall snaking railway lines, and offers a modular system allowing multiple configurations in different settings.
- Sitting on London’s Clay by Local Collective Studio
London Bridge Station
Local Collective’s seating uses London clay – a natural material found beneath Londoners’ feet – to offer a piece of social furniture that is breathable and sustainable. The bench’s modular system offers different arrangements, while the materiality of clay improves indoor air quality by absorbing humidity and toxins. In response to climate change, Sitting on London’s Clay encourages a re-think about centuries-old construction techniques and materials.