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The Longest Bench by Studio Weave, Littlehampton, West Sussex, UK

Emerging Architecture Awards 2010: Highly Commended

Occupying conceptual territory that sits somewhere between the work of Japanese architect Shuhei Endo (AR Awards for Emerging Architecture, commended 2005), and British designer Thomas Heatherwick (highly commended 2007), this new structure in Littlehampton claims to be the country’s longest public bench.

To fit within its context on a seaside promenade on the UK’s south coast, the designers yielded to existing constraints forcing the 324m-long seat to meander around lampposts, bend behind bins and duck down to provide level access along its way. The bench can seat over 300 adults, and comprises thousands of tropical hardwood slats - some of the most robust and long-lasting varieties of timber - all of which have been reclaimed from various sources included coastal groynes and landfill. Where possible the natural colour and tone of the wood has been expressed, from pale blondes to warm pinks and rich browns, interspersed with brighter splashes of colour where the bench wiggles, bends or dips. With durability a key requirement, the framework is made from stainless steel box sections dipped in a polymer enamel called Nylon-11, which in turn is painted in a subtly shifting range of colours from pink, yellow and orange in the east to purple, blue and green in the west.

Along its way the bench inhabits two shelters formed by steel monocoque structures sprayed with an aluminium bronze finish. Over time the more exposed steel faces will attract salt streaks and verdigris, in contrast to the protected internal faces which, it is hoped, will retain their smooth, warm golden finish.

Architect Studio Weave, London, UK
Structural engineer Adams Kara Taylor
Project manager/quantity surveyor Jackson Coles
Main contractor Millimetre
Photography Studio Weave

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