OPEN CALL – design a park bench

Design Exhibition Scotland is delighted to be partnering Mount Stuart Trust on the Isle of Bute in an OPEN CALL to design a prototype public park bench. We invite proposals from designers, artists & architects either working collaboratively or as individuals who are based in Scotland.

One of Mount Stuart’s woodland benches. The grounds of Mount Stuart cover over 300 acres.

The OPEN CALL celebrates all that the public bench offers – the joy of sitting outside, the great outdoors & public space; the chance to pause for thought, take in a view, read a book & eat a sandwich or a place to meet with friends. And of course, the public bench should celebrate good design & well-crafted materials.

One of the ‘camel benches’ in the grounds of Mount Stuart. It dates from the 1870s & cast by the SLB Foundry in Sittingbourne. It was originally located on the Thames Embankment.

Mount Stuart is stately home on the Isle of Bute. It’s surrounded by over 300 acres of landscaped gardens & woodlands – all set against the backdrop of the Firth of Clyde. Every year Mount Stuart welcomes thousands of visitors who wander the grounds & visit the historic house. And Mount Stuart has a celebrated visual arts programme, annually inviting artists to make site-specific installations. In 2022 the artist Abbas Akhaven will be exhibiting at Mount Stuart. Design Exhibition Scotland is delighted to be joining forces with Mount Stuart Trust to bring brilliant new benches to their grounds.

And we are delighted that Lyon & Turnbull are lead supporters of our Open Call. Auctioneers who are headquartered in Edinburgh, they hosted the first two editions of Design Exhibition Scotland in 2018 & 2019, so huge thanks to them.

How to apply?

We invite proposals from designers, artists & architects either working collaboratively or as individuals who are based in Scotland. Please email the following by Monday 31 January, 11.55pm to susanna@designexhibitionscotland.co.uk.

1 – Three hand-drawn or digital sketches of your proposed bench with approximate dimensions.
2 – A list of materials you propose using, do send images if appropriate.
3 – A short written text (no more than 500 words) outlining the ideas & influences behind your design.

What happen’s next?

18 February 2022
Four proposals will be selected from the submissions received. The selected designers / design teams will be given £500 to support the development of the proposal over a period of 6 weeks. Susanna Beaumont will support this period of development as required.

28 March 2022
The selected designers / design teams will be invited to present their worked up designs. If the designs are sufficiently developed, each of the four proposals will be awarded £1000 to take their design to prototype.

May / June 2022
Fabrication of prototype benches.

July 2022
Installation of prototype benches at Mount Stuart.

The selection panel will include Sophie Crichton Stuart, creative director, Mount Stuart Visual Arts; Sophie McKinlay, director of programme, V&A Dundee; artist & designer, James Rigler & Susanna Beaumont, director, Design Exhibition Scotland. Design Exhibition Scotland plans to tour the prototype benches to other locations across Scotland in Autumn 2022. We will also explore the possibility taking a prototype park bench into wider production.

For inspiration – more benches . . .

Jenny Holzer’s Garden Bench from 2001 in the garden of The Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice.
Gerrit Rietveld’s design for a concrete bench from 1961. Courtesy Kröller-Müller Museum, The Netherlands
Christine Borland’s To Be Set & Sown in the Garden, 2001. A series of hardwood benches with porcelain headrests, commissioned by the University of Glasgow, located outside the Hunterian Art Gallery. Image Alan Dimmick.
Christine Borland’s To Be Set & Sown in the Garden, (detail) 2001. A series of hardwood benches with porcelain headrests, commissioned by the University of Glasgow, located outside the Hunterian Art Gallery. Image Alan Dimmick.
Curving bench in Tormain Woods, Ratho designed & made by Ratho Byres Forge, West Lothian.
One of Paris’s numerous 19th century double-sided benches.
One of series of benches designed by Camila Walala & installed in South Molton Street, London in 2019.
Fern and Blackberry garden bench at Dumfries House, Ayrshire. It dates from the late 19th century & was manufactured by Coalbrookdale in Shropshire.

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