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Competition: City of London Parklets

The London Festival of Architecture (LFA) has launched an international contest for a series of small £6,500 landscaped spaces throughout the City of London (Deadline: 7 February)

The competition seeks ‘safe, durable and low-cost’ concepts for a number of public ‘parklets’ to occupy kerbside parking bays across the Square Mile.

The project, supported by the City of London Corporation, aims to boost public spaces throughout the area where ambitious plans will see half of the streets given ‘pedestrian priority’ by 2044. The winning schemes will be constructed in key locations in time for the LFA’s opening on 1 June.

Fresh Air Square by WMB Studio in Tooley Street, London Bridge

Fresh Air Square by WMB Studio in Tooley Street, London Bridge

Source: Image by Mediamixer

Fresh Air Square by WMB Studio in Tooley Street, London Bridge

LFA director Tamsie Thomson said: ‘Harnessing London’s amazing design talent to enliven London’s public realm is fundamental to our mission at the London Festival of Architecture. Once again we’re delighted to be working in partnership with the City of London Corporation as our exciting and fruitful competitions activities continue to develop.

‘As the LFA explores the theme of “boundaries” in 2019, the City Parklets project promises not only to bring joy and colour to the City next summer, but also to provoke thinking about how architects can bridge the gap between disused space and productive use.’

Chris Hayward, chair of the City of London’s planning and transportation committee, said: ‘As we continue to upgrade and enliven the City’s streets and spaces, we look forward to working with the London Festival of Architecture once again on innovative planning solutions, while providing young professionals in the built environment industry with the opportunity to use their creativity to support our healthier street model.

‘I hope very much that their designs inspire the public to see City spaces in a new light.’

Patrick McEvoy's bench in Jubilee Gardens

Patrick McEvoy’s bench in Jubilee Gardens

Source: Image by Agnese Sanvito

Patrick McEvoy’s bench in Jubilee Gardens

The latest competition comes a year after the LFA invited proposals for a series of public benches in the City of London. The contest was won by a number of emerging London architects and practices including Patrick McEvoy and Nicholas Kirk Architects.

The City of London Parklets project will deliver a series of kerbside public spaces where visitors and local workers can ‘rest, relax and admire the City’.

Proposals must provide some form of public amenity, such as seating or landscaping and should be low maintenance, free-standing and responsive to the local environment.

Interested teams must submit a 300-word written text explaining their interest in the project along with a 200-word practice description and biographies. Six shortlisted teams will then receive £250 each to develop design concepts.

Judges include Thomson, City public realm and open space leads Simon Glynn and Patrick Hegarty, Jennifer Dixon of AECOM, and Philippa Stockley from the Evening Standard.

The overall winners, to be notified in mid-March, will receive £6,500 each to design and deliver their scheme.

How to apply


The deadline for applications is midday, 7 February

Contact details


Visit the competition website for more information

Q&A with Tamsie Thomson

The director of the London Festival of Architecture discusses her ambitions for the competition

Tamsie Thomson

Tamsie Thomson

Tamsie Thomson

Why are your holding an international contest for a series of parklets across the City of London?

The London Festival of Architecture has a well-established and successful programme of design competitions: we use these not only to procure projects that can then become a focus for activity during the festival’s annual public programme, but also to showcase London as an amazing city where architecture, design and creativity can thrive. Our competitions attract entries from all over the world, and it’s a thrill to use the city as a backdrop to celebrate new architecture and design. We’re casting the net wide because we want to see an exciting variety of entries and – ultimately – installations that can excite and inspire the public. We’re delighted that the City of London is to be a LFA festival hub once again this year, and this competition is a brilliant way of demonstrating how architecture can make a huge difference in the Square Mile.

What is your vision for the new small-scale public spaces?

On a strategic level, the competition is being run alongside the development of the City of London Corporation’s draft transport strategy, which aims to put the needs of pedestrians first, to provide more public space, and to incorporate more greenery into the City’s streets and public spaces.

Conceptually, the competition is a great way to explore the LFA’s 2019 theme of ‘boundaries’. That could be boundaries of individual space within the public realm; between traffic and pedestrians; between tranquillity and bustle; between the temporary and the permanent – it’s a rich theme that I’m sure will be mined in many different ways.

The spaces themselves are very small, and so the challenge will be to create something that is nevertheless practical and impactful at this scale, and addresses the brief as somewhere for people to rest, relax and enjoy the City. Designs need to work for users: they cannot be purely sculptural and we certainly don’t want to litter the City with follies. If you think you can address the brief with in an interesting, practical and low-cost way, then we want to hear from you.

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

We are inviting architects, designers and artists from all over the world to submit a design proposal for a parklet. It’s certainly something that should appeal to emerging practices, smaller firms or even individuals. For them it certainly is an opportunity to be noticed and make a name for themselves – we expect the project to receive widespread attention, and of course the parklets will be seen by many thousands of people who live or work in the city, as well as those visiting as tourists or for business. We would also love to see entries from larger, more established names, and to see how they could apply their ideas and skills at such a small but interesting scale.

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?

Watch this space. We’re looking forward to the development of the second Dulwich Pavilion and Charles Holland’s wayfinding installation, and we’ll be announcing the winner of our River View competition very soon. We’ve got some other competition announcements up our sleeve too. All of them aim to showcase London as a global architectural hub, and to inspire people as they encounter architecture that is accessible and engaging, and challenges them to think about public space in the city.

Are there any other recent pop-up parklets projects you have been impressed by?

We really liked Fresh Air Square on Tooley Street, which was organised by Team London Bridge – another of our festival hub partners. And of course, we loved running our City Benches competition in 2018 with the City Corporation: it generated an amazing response and the resulting benches proved hugely popular.

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