Places to perch: five new benches for the Royal Docks

Regeneration news

Places to perch: five new benches for the Royal Docks

A place to rest, somewhere to stop for a chat, a spot to admire the view — even the most ordinary of benches can turn a stretch of street into a welcoming space.

But there’s nothing ordinary about these five brand new benches in the Royal Docks. In collaboration with the London Festival of Architecture, we asked emerging architects and designers to submit designs for playful and surprising waterside seats. These five practices took the challenge of adding a touch of colour and humour to the water's edge very seriously indeed.

The Buoys are Back in Town bench sculpture by McCloy + Muchemwa

McCloy + Muchemwa

The designer duo try out their creation, The Buoys are Back in Town.

The Buoys are Back in Town

If you perch on McCloy + Muchemwa’s buoyant creation, you’ll find this neon bench has just a little bit of a bounce to it. The pair aim to challenge how we see these familiar floating markers, stringing them together into a bright, modular seating system, calling their bench, “a disruption from a world that we sleepwalk through”. The robust buoys can even be released back into their watery environment at the end of the bench’s lifespan.

Bounce on a buoy outside Building 1000.

Parallel Collective's Semaphore sculpture Parallel Collective's Semaphore sculpture

Parallel Collective

A seat in warm colours of stone, Semaphore was this collective's design.


How’s your maritime alphabet? Ours is a little rusty, but Parallel Collective assure us that their stone seating spells out the letters “Royal Docks” across its length. Drawing on the area’s rich history as a centre for world trade, these colourful benches are inspired by the flags that ships used to communicate. Made from natural terrazzo, even the material draws on the aggregates of the Thames’ riverbed.

Reflect on the past at Royal Albert Wharf.

Studio Who's Royal Breath sculpture


This group of young architects take a seat on Royal Breath.

Royal Breath

Ventilation ducts are transformed by gleaming gold coating into a sinuous, shimmering sculpture. StudioWho describe their perch as “an urban lighthouse where time stops”. These industrial forms are inspired by the Royal Docks’ history as a commercial powerhouse, while their reflective surfaces shift colour as the sky and water change shade in the shifting seasons.

Find gleam of royal glamour on the dock side of ExCeL London.

Portia Malik's Peekaboo bench Portia Malik's peekaboo bench

Portia Malik

Portia with her design, Peekaboo.


Whether you favour the wibble wobble, the towel struggle, or a head-to-toe poncho, this seat by Portia Malik will infinitely improve your post-swimming changing method. Peekaboo provides privacy for outdoor swimmers struggling in and out of wetsuits. The structure’s sweeping curves take their shapes from freestyle strokes, and there are even hooks for a towel inside.

Take shelter outside the Crystal after a dip in the dock.

Roly Poly

Lightly rocking from side to side, this tactile design from Urban Radicals with Sanne Visser also nods to shipping buoys shapes. The designers wrapped their seat in traditional thick marine rope, adding a “layer of fun and softness.”

Rock from side to side by RAD.

Urban Radicals' Roly Poly bench Urban Radicals' Roly Poly bench sculpture

Urban Radicals with Sanne Visser

The designers try out their bench, Roly Poly.