February’s Bournemouth bench row inspired artists and activists alike to stand up against measures taken by local councils to prevent rough sleepers from sleeping on town benches.
Rapper Professor Green attempted to dismantle the bars that physically prevented homeless people from sleeping on benches installed in the town, while artist Stuart Semple successfully lobbied Bournemouth Borough Council to remove them completely.
Now, architects have the chance to transform and influence the future of public seating in The London Festival of Architecture and the City of London Corporation’s City Benches competition, where a call to design a series of one-off public benches has gone out.
The winner will see their seating ideas installed in June 2018 with the goal of enlivening the Eastern Cluster and Bank area in the English capital’s financial district. The flourishing area has seen an influx of developments and new towers emerge in recent years, increasing the need for more seating to accommodate the increasing numbers of people and enhance the urban environment.
But crucially, the contest represents a chance to move away from the anti-homeless designs visible most recently in Bournemouth and in London itself, where the notorious ‘Camden bench’ was introduced in 2012. The concrete eyesore, which was designed to block sleeping, littering, skateboarding, graffiti and theft, came under fire for further excluding marginalised groups from society.
Architecture and design students, recent graduates and emerging practices from across London will have the chance to consign these designs to the past with the competition by submitting proposals by midday on April 19.