One of the winning entries from the Pews and Perches competition at the Royal Docks

Art & Culture

London Festival of Architecture and the Royal Docks Team announce second edition of ‘Pews and Perches’ bench competition

The London Festival of Architecture (LFA) and the Royal Docks Team (RDT) have launched a new edition of the ‘Pews and Perches’ design competition, which will see a series of bespoke public benches delivered throughout the Royal Docks this autumn.

Open to architecture and design students, recent graduates and emerging practitioners, the competition hopes to deliver playful and creative bench proposals to celebrate the Royal Docks and the communities at home in the area. Now in its second year, the project seeks to once again highlight the positive and transformative impact of small-scale interventions in the public realm, which can provide hundreds of thousands of locals, visitors and Londoners with a unique new space to sit and make the most of their surrounding public space in the next year.

With health and wellbeing more important than ever, the benches should promote healthier lifestyles, acting as a catalyst for interaction and activity. Within the remit of social distancing measures, this could take the form of elements to enable a physical workout or involve children's active participation with the design. The proposals should also offer a conversation starter and enhance people’s connection with nature and the docks’ built environment, through their design vision as well as creative and sustainable material choices.

I am excited to see this year’s new interpretations of the project, and how they can once again offer an engaging positive addition to the docks.

Tamsie Thomson, director of the London Festival of Architecture

Once London’s gateway to world trade, today the Royal Docks is one of the UK’s most important regeneration stories, set to re-emerge as a flourishing and diverse commercial and cultural hub with an exciting new waterfront. In order to reflect the communities’ needs and aspirations for their local public space and street furniture, designs should build upon the local public realm consultations to date, with proposals then being developed in coordination with local communities – a process which the Royal Docks Team will facilitate.

The competition entries will be judged by an expert panel including:

Dan Bridge (Programme Director in the Royal Docks)
Tamsie Thomson
(Director, London Festival of Architecture)
Frances Williams
(Technical Editor, Architects’ Journal)
Pedro Gil
(Founder, Studio Gil)
Community representative TBC

Interested applicants are invited to submit their proposal by 8.00am on Monday 28 September 2020. The winners will each be awarded £2,000 including a design fee of £500 to develop, build and install their bench in November 2020. The call for entries document containing detailed submission and entry criteria can be found at

In addition to the annual City Benches competition, this project also builds upon the success of the first LFA ‘Pews and Perches’ competition - organised by the LFA in partnership with the Royal Docks Team - which formed the first open call of LFA 2020. From a bench incorporating changing facilities for swimmers to another using reclaimed marine buoys, these five playful designs are still in place and each represent extraordinarily imaginative additions to the docks’ waterfront, as they continue to be enjoyed by the public. In keeping with the Festival’s mission to support and champion emerging talent, this open call seeks to continue the legacy of these popular installations, with fresh ideas bringing joy and inspiration to the Royal Docks post-lockdown.

Tamsie Thomson, director of the London Festival of Architecture said:

“The ‘Pews and Perches’ Benches is a brilliant project which will not only enliven the public realm, but also celebrate London as it re-opens, by showcasing the capital’s emerging architecture and design talent. This remains at the heart of our mission as a Festival, and we’re very grateful to the Royal Docks Team for sharing that vision - I am excited to see this year’s new interpretations of the project, and how they can once again offer an engaging positive addition to the docks.”

A Royal Docks Spokesperson said:

“We are delighted to be once again working with the London Festival of Architecture on the ‘Pews and Perches’ bench competition. The way a place looks and feels is reflected in the way it is enjoyed. Our recently published Public Realm Framework highlights the benefits delivered by public spaces, with a focus on health, relaxation, and wellbeing. We hope that the emerging architects designed benches will benefit residents and visitors to the Royal Docks, providing them with a safe place to sit, relax and enjoy the unique waterside views.”

You can download the ‘call for entries’ documentation here.