Stone Bench Competition 2008

London EC3

Sam Sawkins and Donna Walker
City of London Corporation
Main Contractor:
Portland Stone:
Jordans Whitbed
Scope of Project:
Design and construction of stone bench

A six-tonne hand-carved urban bench has been created for a small historic garden in central London and is the winner of a competition initiated by CWO and sponsored by Albion Stone and the City of London Corporation. The competition was to design a bench that had to be produced from a single, specified block of Portland Limestone donated by Albion Stone.

The winning design was produced by two students from the University of Edinburgh, Sam Dawkins and Donna Walker. They designed the sculpted stone bench which was then carved by apprentice masons at CWO. Both students were familiar with the Rotunda gardens in Smithfield, home of the famous meat market, where the finished bench was erected and sought inspiration from the history and existing architecture of the area. It deliberately aligns with surrounding landmarks such as St Bartholomew’s Church just outside the garden. The surfaces of the Whitbed stone, with its certain amount of fossil inclusion, are smooth in some places and tooled in others.

The seat zig-zags its way through the uprights like a river flowing under bridges. This allows for many different seating arrangements – with both individual seats and larger areas where groups can gather – all facing different directions and leading the eye to the wider surroundings.

Inscriptions have been cut into the stone by hand, for which CWO had the help of the Worthing letter cutting studio of Bob Jolly. The main inscription is taken from Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens and describes Smithfield. There is also a poem about St Paul’s.