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Competition open call: City Benches 2021


The London Festival of Architecture, Cheapside Business Alliance and Aldgate Connect Business Improvement District have launched the fourth edition of the City Benches competition, which this year will see a new series of public benches installed across Cheapside, the City and Aldgate ahead of the London Festival of Architecture 2021.


Architecture students, recent graduates and emerging architects or designers across all disciplines are invited to transform Cheapside and Aldgate’s streetscape with an imaginative and witty take on much-needed public seating.



As the project hopes to welcome commuters, visitors and Londoners back to the area in line with the Government’s road map to easing England’s lockdown restrictions, it offers the exciting opportunity to use sustainable and colourful elements to create a joyful space for the public to sit, relax and enjoy their surroundings, while adhering to any COVID-19 restrictions which may remain in place. In keeping with the Festival’s 2021 theme of ‘care’, entrants are encouraged to think creatively about a new perspective on accessible design, considering how passers-by, workers and visitors with different access needs can interact with and make the most of the benches.


The competition also seeks to continue public conversation around the impact of architecture at any scale, and a variety of locations will be identified across Cheapside and Aldgate, with the opportunity to tie into existing public realm and seating ambitions. Designs should therefore demonstrate clear ties to the local community and heritage of the area, celebrating and making a positive difference to their surrounding public realm.


For the past three years, the City Benches project has seen over a dozen different creative designs installed across Cheapside and the City, proving hugely popular additions to the streetscape in these bustling areas – both in person and on social. Building on this success, this year’s series of new public benches marks the first time the project’s footprint will also expand into the wider City and City Fringe area in Aldgate, where the project hopes to continue this legacy and further champion emerging talent in front of a wide public audience.


Entries will be judged by an expert panel comprising:


The call for entries document – is available here.


There will be a minimum of seven  winning teams and each will be awarded £800 to manufacture and install their bench ahead of the London Festival of Architecture 2021. Entrants are invited to submit their proposals by midday on Friday 26 March 2021.


Rosa Rogina, programme director of New London Architecture and the London Festival of Architecture, said:

“I’m delighted that our City Benches competition is now back for its fourth year, offering the unmissable opportunity to showcase emerging and young design teams’ talent, following a particularly difficult year. As we explore the theme of ‘care’ in 2021, we hope the project will encourage entrants to rethink what it means for public realm design to care – from sustainable choices, to celebrating local history and community, to accessibility. I’m grateful to Cheapside Business Alliance and Aldgate Connect Business Improve District for sharing our vision, and am looking forward to seeing this year’s vibrant range of entries.”


Claire Dumontier-Marriage, BID Manager of Cheapside Business Alliance, said:

“We are thrilled to once again be partnering with the London Festival of Architecture on this exciting project, helping to support emerging architecture and design talent. Though many of our programmes have been challenged during the pandemic, we are very proud to have continued to deliver key projects to showcase our unique part of the Square Mile. The City Benches project presents a fantastic opportunity to create welcoming, safe and eye-catching interventions for everyone to enjoy as they gradually return to the City, and rediscover Cheapside as a leading London destination for business and leisure.”


Zoe Barwick, Aldgate Connect Business Improve District, said:

“We’re excited to be working with the London Festival of Architecture and Cheapside Business Alliance on this year’s City Benches project, transforming Aldgate’s public realm with a series of creative bench designs for everyone to enjoy. Aldgate is shaped by many layers of infrastructure, historical points of interest and our diverse community, and we look forward to welcoming local applications as well as design ideas that can shine a spotlight on the rich history of our area.”




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