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Competition: Berkhamsted cemetery benches, England

The Friends of St Peter’s (FoSP) has launched an open competition for a series of cemetery benches in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire (Deadline: 18 November)

The anonymous contest seeks proposals for new ‘beautiful and well considered’ seating in various locations within the town’s 1.3ha Rectory Lane Cemetery.

Participants may submit designs for up to eight individual benches or a composite scheme for all new seating structures throughout the space.

Berkhamsted, England

Berkhamsted, England

Rectory Lane Cemetery

‘The competition organisers will be pleased to consider a variety of design styles,’ says the brief, ‘and will also give special attention to the sensitivity and rigour of the design process.

‘Winning entries will need to be realistically affordable, built to last, and designed in such a way as to ensure the practicality of their construction and the longevity of the installation.’

Berkhamsted is a market town 42km north-west of London. It was first settled during the Neolithic era and later became a royal residence and home to Thomas Becket and Geoffrey Chaucer.

Rectory Lane Cemetry

Rectory Lane Cemetry

Contest site

Rectory Lane Cemetery, around 500m from the ruins of Berkhamsted Castle, is the burial ground for nearby Grade II*-listed St Peter’s Church on Birkhamsted High Street, originally built around 800 years ago.

The cemetery, which opened in 1842, is no longer open to burials, and is being transformed into a ‘vibrant and diverse contemporary garden of commemoration’ as part of a Parks for People restoration project.

It currently features an ‘un-coordinated’ variety of wooden-slatted benches and metal benches along with three ‘leftovers’ from a railway station seating renewal programme. In the centre lies the 1934 stone and timber Seat of Remembrance, commissioned in memory of Brigadier General Richard Mildmay Foot.

Proposed new seating for the cemetery may use locally available materials such as brick, flint and timber, but new technologies and material approaches are also encouraged.

Schemes should be safe, comfortable and respectful of the surrounding context and landscape. They should also be resistant to environmental damage from waterpooling, freeze thaw, and roots and tree penetration.

The winners, set to be announced in January, will either receive prizes of £1,000, £500 and £250 for the best individual seat designs, or £2,000 if a best composite scheme is chosen.

How to apply

Deadline

The deadline for applications is midnight on 18 November

Contact details

Elaine Mercer
Friends of St Peters
High Street
Berkhamsted
Hertfordshire
HP4 2AX

Tel: 07866118749
Email: elainelmercer@yahoo.co.uk

Visit the competition website for more information

Granary Square benches case study: Q&A with Ian McChesney

The founder of McChesney Architects discusses lessons learned designing outdoor seating for Granary Square in King’s Cross, London

Ian McChesney

Ian McChesney

Ian McChesney

How did your competition-winning bench design respond to the landscape of Granary Square?

We were presented with a completed landscape: Granary Square, a formal composition of four fountain pools aligning with the facade of the Granary building. The design of the square by Townshend Landscape Architects always included eight benches but of differing design. With the number and siting of the benches fixed, I was asked to provide my thoughts. Given the history of the Granary building, and with many historic features left in the paved areas, I wanted the new benches to have a timeless quality and a long lifespan. I chose Cornish granite for its strength and provenance and, with the material choice determined early in the process, the design emerged out of the possibilities of granite as a material that could be sculpted to a shape that was both alluring and comfortable.

London

London

Source: Image by Peter Cook

Granary Square benches by McChesney Architects

What material and design considerations are important when creating permanent seating for a public setting?

I think that designers consistently underestimate the wear and abuse imposed on public seating. Common forms of attack include impact by skateboards and bikes, and spilled drinks which can cause staining, so material choice is critical. It is important to consider a cross-section of users. Will they want backrests and armrests for example? Positioning is also important; make sure that they are off main pathways as people can walk into or trip over benches in low light levels. It is also important that seating is theft resistant; bolted down or too heavy to move.

London

London

Source: Image by Peter Cook

Granary Square benches by McChesney Architects

How would you approach designing a bench, or series of benches, for Rectory Lane Cemetery?

The budget for benches at Rectory Lane is going to be a challenge. I wonder if it might even be less a bench than a land form? Perhaps the manufacture is by the designer or a community engagement project? Another approach might be to incorporate a text inscription connecting each seat to a donor who could top-up the budget. Working in the context of a cemetery is interesting; there will already exist many crafted tombstones, so the attitude must be appropriate. I would consider carefully what the bench might be; should it be a piece of stonemasonry like a tombstone or something lighter like a wooden seat, or even something moulded to the land?

London

London

Source: Image by Peter Cook

Granary Square benches by McChesney Architects