Pews and Perches


Pews & Perches

In 2012, RIBA London and London Pleasure Gardens invited architecture students, recent graduates and emerging practices to design benches for the Royal Docks site in east London. 

Successful Pews & Perches designers completed the construction of their benches in time for the opening weekend of London Festival of Architecture 2012. The seating was installed at waterside and meadow locations across the London Pleasure Gardens.

“The benches look magical in this post-industrial landscape. We’re really excited by the potential of these emerging designers, there’s a lot of talent here.”

Tamsie Thomson, RIBA London Director

A gallery of images is available on the Wallpaper* website, and below you can find a selection of photos showing the benches being made.  

To find out more about this process please download the design brief.




Gallery -  Making the Benches



 Holly Hayward applying finishing touches


Compendium's CNC cut bench of figures



Friends helping to weave Emma Hyett & Lotte Hill's tea party bench from willow  


 John Chun's bench under construction



 Pouring concrete for the herb garden

Will York's design will work as both bench and planter. Traditional English garden herbs will grow around and between the wooden slats that will rest on top of the concrete.
PP1981 2

 See-saw bench in progress

NineteenEightyOne's see-saw design is made from a repeated plywood profile, each section rotated 1 degree and fixed together. The resulting form will sway gently.



 Playful park bench - stage 1

This image shows Will Sandy's bench before the backrests were added. The 3 scaffolding plank backrest sections will pivot and therefore encourage people to interact and provide the playful element.   


 Railway Sleeper bench

ReevesJonesStudio's design from railway sleepers makes a connection between the docks and rail transportation. On site, Alex and Henry have been drilling and fixing the pieces to complete their seating.  



 The zombie bench

The precast concrete arms seen above are of varying shapes and sizes. These have been fabricated off-site ready for the designers, NEON, to set them into a concrete base.

The Spinning Tree

Zoe Berman's timber seat will feature a living tree planted into the structure. The design, combining installation and furniture, is inspired by the turning of the seasons. This photo shows one of the plywood panels as it comes off the CNC router.


PPCarolineLundin  The Bundle Bench

Caroline Lundin has designed a colourful organic bench for the Pleasure Gardens site. The wooden lattice structure shown above has since been painted in different colours to create a vibrant seat to be enjoyed by visitors.  

PPIMG4491  © Steel Line Ltd

Emma-Kate Matthews 'whistling stop' concept combined her interests in architecture, music and furniture design. The design has been through tests and iterations in order to deliver the desired twisting effect with the steel tubes.



 Bag Bench in progress

Heidi Day and Murtaza Rizvi are reusing discarded plastic bags as a covering material for the bench. The structure is formed of simple timber boxes glued and screwed together. Eight layers of plastic bags will be fused (using an iron) onto the plywood, giving a strong, durable and colourful finish.


 Flipping Drum bench

Robert Johnson's bench is made from recycled oil drums. Robert has been working with his brother, a cabinet maker, to realise this rotating design which will allow people to enjoy the dock views. Three painted drums will make up the final seating arrangement.  


PPRobertWilson  Waiting to be loaded on to the truck....

Robert Wilson has designed his bench to be a place of shelter and decoration. People will be invited to attach mementos to the rope structure gradually building up a screen of interesting artefacts. Planting has been introduced around the edge.

PPScreenshot2012-05-15at232555  Made of Money

Tom Woods and Christopher Kennedy's bench utilises 60 kilos of shredded money donated by the Bank of England. The photo shows the process of making the PVA-money composite ready for casting into the bench mould (made from a block model of wood, fabric and foam).



PPEdwardGrocottMulti-functional bench

The section you can see here shows the steel strips and shipping palettes which make up Edward Grocott's bench. The design will also work as a table and allow access for all.  

 The Picnic Podium

This bench from CAN (Eddie Blake and Mat Barnes) creates a podium by setting a concrete cloth over a timber frame. The cloth will be painted to finish the piece.




 Broomhandle bench

Paul Westwood's bench comprised of broomhandles is inspired by the idea of a 'well worn sofa' moulded to the human form.


 Bamboo bundle structure

The image shows the basis of James Bruce and Emma Carter's bench, ready for the bamboo to be added to make a perch for sitting and reclining.


Top of page