Our top five public seating designs

When does outside seating work well? We are having this conversation at NOW Gallery as we have invited three designers Ayr, Aberrant Architecture, and Raw Edges to come up with proposals for a playful seating installation for under the canopy next to Peninsula Square between the O2 and Peninsula Garden.

Our temporary solution has been Pearson Lloyds 1:1 which I commissioned for an exhibition at Great Western Studios. It has worked ingeniously as a stackable seating solution, and also becomes workspace as seen here with our Pylon making workshop.

What I have enjoyed particularly about these simple bench structures is that as soon as you put them out, people use them and make them their own.

Now we are looking for a more permanent solution for outside NOW Gallery.

It seemed like a good idea to look at some worthy benches and spaces defined by their street furniture. What makes them work creating spaces that people want to frequent with relish?

What are the five best seating examples internationally which inspire how we want the space under the canopy to evolve?

1. My first thought was seating designed by Enzi in the Vienna Museum Quartier which I have visited a number of times.

The colour changes from candy shop pink one year to lemon yellow in 2009. The benches can be moved which is essential for us as we host the Urban Village Fete and other outdoor events.

These benches also work in a number of ways, you can lie on them, sit, eat, or they can be put one upside down on top of another to create a hidey space. Moved around they reinvent the space the courtyard.

2. This film of Urban Reef for Robson Street in Vancover designed by Kaz Bremner and Jeremiah Deutscher with local furniture collective Higher Works – shows how seating can create a dynamic area where people stay to rest, to eat, to sleep; and how a vibe comes from this activity and a public space comes to life.

This bench also demonstrates the power of a simple material constructed well to be more than furniture. The wood is warm to the touch and somehow friendly. The Reef is a good name for it, there really is the sense that people come and go from it when needing some space from the busy city.

3. Planting with benches seems like a good idea. I am interested to see if this can become seating that moves.

Dezeen flagged up this portable parklet which functions as a bench brightening up a road and creating a ‘fresh air square’.

Our planters, under neighbouring restaurant Craft London’s care are a vivid green element in Peninsula Square and also produce herbs, kale, and just recently Stevie Parle pulled up the smartest bunch of chantenay carrots which will be on Craft’s menu.
A green aspect to seating seems like a good way of creating a garden scape in an urban environment.

4. Jeppe Hain was renown for his controversial art work, but more recently he has been designing striking buildings and furniture for the public realm. I particularly like this work which has humour and simplicity, which makes it stand out and engages visitors with the space in an unconventional way.

Long Modified Bench San Francisco, Jeppe Hein





5. For colour, imagination and detail to materials complimenting place – Studio Weave’s The Longest Bench project takes an Oscar.

This is a fanfare for all on the Littlehampton promenade reacting to the ripples of the sea and the sand. It has a lightness and a complexity, and the colours ring of ice cream and hot sunny days even when the sky is grey.

So what we are looking for is less furniture and more a way of being in a space which makes it fun, relaxing and gives space to enjoy the neighbourhood. 

This is seating to create joy and make us pause.