Tuesday 13 Oct 2020
‘Sitting Pretty’ – Young architects and designers bring London rail stations to life
A series of witty and challenging benches by emerging architects and designers have been unveiled at some of London’s largest railway stations, following a design competition organised by the London Festival of Architecture and Network Rail.
From a playful oversized rocking chair to seating that uses the clay beneath Londoners’ feet to absorb the pollutants around them, this engaging series of new installations demonstrates how inventive architecture and design can make a real difference to the everyday travelling experience in Britain’s railway stations.
For the London Festival of Architecture, the commissions are the latest in a series of public installations that harness and celebrate emerging architectural and design talent, while improving London’s shared spaces and connecting people with new architecture and the buildings around them. For Network Rail – already responsible for many of Britain’s finest buildings – the series is part of an enhanced focus on applying the highest design standards across Network Rail’s built environment, whether it be new stations and signal boxes or bridges and benches.
Over 70 design teams responded to an open call for entries, and a challenge to consider how better station seating might look, with the potential for winning ideas to be replicated across stations managed by Network Rail in the future.
The five new benches are:
1. Beluga by Hylemo & Ai Build – Victoria Station
Hyelmo and Ai Build have combined their expertise in digital fabrication and 3D printing to create seating that challenges the way furniture in the public domain is produced. Beluga explores the application of 3D printing to bioplastics to create waste-free furniture, offering limitless forms and intriguing passers-by.
2. ConvoStation by The United Suburbs – Charing Cross Station
ConvoStation is a brightly coloured oversize rocking chair, and a fun station bench where people – parents with children perhaps – can pass the time while waiting for friends or a train. At a time of social distancing, it reminds us of the joy of safe human interaction, while generating an awareness of the spaces around us through motion. ConvoStation is supported by Universal Spraying Ltd.
3. Lacuna by Nick Tyrer with Victoria Philpott – Waterloo Station
Nick Tyrer and Victoria Philpott have brought together seating and striking planting through a design that offers a spatial experience while remaining functional and comfortable. Lacuna offers a sense of security and personal space on a large station concourse, while also creating a much larger visual impact upon the identity of the station. Lacuna is supported by James Lathams and Garnica, and fabricated by Raskl.
4. Reclaim, Re-invent, Re-purpose by Atelier La Juntana – London Bridge Station
This bench takes inspiration from the complex relationships between railway lines, stations and the cities they serve. The design treats reclaimed timber track sleepers with steam bending and digital CNC forming techniques, creating geometries that recall snaking railway lines, and offers a modular system allowing multiple configurations in different settings. Reclaim, Re-invent, Re-purpose is supported by Shadbolt, University of East London and Kohn Pedersen Fox.
5. Sitting on London’s Clay by Local Collective Studio
Local Collective’s seating uses London clay – a natural material found beneath Londoners’ feet – to offer a social furniture that is breathable and sustainable. The bench’s modular system offers different arrangements, while the materiality of clay improves indoor air quality by absorbing humidity and toxins. In response to climate change, Sitting on London’s Clay encourages a re-think about centuries-old construction techniques and materials. The bench is supported by Pro-duck, Clayworks and Guy Valentine.
The ‘Sitting Pretty’ competition was judged by an expert panel comprising:
Anthony Dewar (Professional Head Buildings and Architecture Safety, Technical and Engineering, Network Rail)
Frank Anatole (Principal Architect, Network Rail)
Paul Priestman (Director, PriestmanGoode)
Tamsie Thomson (Director, London Festival of Architecture)
Will Hurst (Managing Editor, Architects’ Journal)
Tamsie Thomson, director of the London Festival of Architecture, said:
“It has been a real pleasure to work alongside Network Rail on the ‘Sitting Pretty’ competition, and to give such a talented cohort of outstanding architects and designers a brilliant opportunity to celebrate their work. London’s station concourses are amongst the city’s most important public spaces: for our winners they create an outstanding platform to showcase their skills, and for the public I hope these benches will be a joyful encounter with architecture and design in the midst of the city.”
Frank Anatole, Principal Architect at Network Rail, said:
“We are so looking forward to seeing these imaginative concepts finally installed at our stations at Waterloo, London Bridge, Charing Cross and Victoria, and we hope people will love them. The young designers have faced additional pressures resulting from the current health emergency, including material supplies, workshop availability and the measures that we’ve had to put in place at our stations to keep passengers and station users safe. But all have risen brilliantly to the challenge, and the results will undoubtedly bring a ray of sunshine and a welcome smile to station users over the coming weeks.
Notes to Editors
Photography should be credited to Luke O’Donovan.
The London Festival of Architecture (LFA) is the world’s largest annual architecture festival and showcases London as a global architectural hub. The LFA’s mission is to support London’s architectural and design talent, enthuse and engage with the public, and find new ways to look at familiar places. In 2020 the LFA has explored the theme of power, and celebrated innovation and design through a digital events programme in June. The 2019 edition of the LFA inspired over 600 events across the capital, attracting over 800,000 visitors and a global audience of 138 million. A year-round programme of design competitions, design charrettes, campaigns and other activities also champions London as the best place in the world to practice and enjoy architecture.
Network Rail owns, operates and develops Britain's railway infrastructure; that's 20,000 miles of track, 30,000 bridges, tunnels and viaducts and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations. It runs 20 of Great Britain’s largest stations, and works round-the-clock to provide a safe, reliable experience for the millions using Europe’s fastest-growing railway each and every day.
The Network Rail Buildings and Architecture team is responsible for setting the standards, policy and long-term planning for Network Rail’s built environment, ensuring the highest design standards are attained whilst preserving and enhancing the legacy of Britain’s railway. The team runs a large and diverse operation; responsible for a wide variety of buildings from iconic stations like London Paddington and Glasgow Central to the signal boxes and maintenance depots that are vital in providing a safe and reliable railway for passengers.
With an outward-looking and collaborative culture, Network Rail works closely with the wider design community to develop an approach to quality, sustainable design. In partnership with the Design Council, Network Rail’s framework - ‘Principles of Good Design’ - describes its long-term vision and ambitions. The Buildings and Architecture team’s mission is to deliver a better travelling experience for the millions of passengers who use Britain’s railway each day through good design, and to provide world-class infrastructure which will consider the individual whilst connecting the nation.
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About Network Rail
We own, operate and develop Britain's railway infrastructure; that's 20,000 miles of track, 30,000 bridges, tunnels and viaducts and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations. We run 20 of the UK's largest stations while all the others, over 2,500, are run by the country's train operating companies.
Usually, there are almost five million journeys made in the UK and over 600 freight trains run on the network. People depend on Britain's railway for their daily commute, to visit friends and loved ones and to get them home safe every day. Our role is to deliver a safe and reliable railway, so we carefully manage and deliver thousands of projects every year that form part of the multi-billion pound Railway Upgrade Plan, to grow and expand the nation's railway network to respond to the tremendous growth and demand the railway has experienced - a doubling of passenger journeys over the past 20 years.