London Seating Competition

, Subject : Recognition

Roots has entered the Architectural Student Award 2009 design competition. The competition has been organised by the City of London Corporation, the Cathedral Works Organisation (CWO), Albion Stone Plc and the Mason’s Company. Together, they are working to promote and encourage young innovative architectural design and stone masonry skills.

The competition is to develop an architectural vision for open space seating for the Riverside Walk on the north bank of the Thames in the City of London, and to enhance the development of architecture and stone masonry skills in the UK.

The brief for the seating installation itself was that it was to be a visually engaging, functional, innovative 21st century design that will enhance its setting and compliment the Riverside Walk for many years to come. The seat had to be made from a single 3m³ block of quarried natural stone, with or without slabbing and jointing. There were no restrictions on the overall width, depth or back height of the seat but it had to contain an area for a stone inscription panel.

Our design focused on the idea that the city is not about one person, or one action. It is about many. London is as much about a tourist taking a photograph or tying his lace as a homeless person chatting to his friends or sleeping during the day. We have aimed to sculpt a seat for all people of the city, and all sections of society. It is a seat that helps define spaces, create connections, and where all actions can be completed.

Using the cube, we will create a series of 500x500mm stone sections. The sections will be separated, creating a whole form from many components, as a representation of the city. The changing rhythm between the sections and the meandering line of the carved seating surface along the seat will allow people to find a space that suits their immediate needs and wants – creating a variety of seating positions.

The layout respects the main pedestrian routes present on the site, while creating a clear yet permeable boundary that will help define the public square. The seat will extend across the embankment and the river, and culminate in a small section on the south-bank. Here, it will mark the re-commencement of the pedestrian route and help create a strong visual connection between the shores. All the while, the rhythm of the sections will change to reflect their location.

The Portland stone used in the design will be left in an ‘unfinished’ state on the sides of the sections but will be polished where the curved forms are carved to create the seating surfaces to represent that these surfaces will be where people interact with the seat, as well as making the seat more comfortable. We would also suggest that the more exposed surfaces of each seating section could be used for a series of informative and/or artist carvings. Each of the sections will be fixed with a dovetailed joint to a stone base rail. The shavings and off-cuts will be reused and reshaped to create a gravel bed around the base of the seat. While ensuring all of the material from the initial cube is used, the bed, along with the sectioned form of the seat itself, we believe will act as a deterrent to any skateboard or rollerblade users.

Though our entry was unsuccessful, this was been an exciting design challenge, and our first project together.

If you have any comments about this news item, please feel free to contact us.

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