The Longest Bench, Littlehampton UK, Studio Weave, 2010

Though it wasn’t conceived as a playscape, I think it’s significant that once Studio Weave came up with the basic idea of a ‘longest bench’, they worked with students from Connaught Junior School to develop the concept.   This is a great way to think about including children in your playful development; not necessarily tasking them with the grand vision itself, but spending serious time with them to refine and give form to how that vision is expressed.

“The children showed us how they use the promenade, what they think of it, and what it means to them, giving us insights into the site we would never otherwise have. Two important incidents along the length of the site are the two shelters. The children told us they felt these were dirty and unsafe. They were dividing rather than connecting the green and the beach.”

This led to one of the nicest features of the Longest Bench:  the two new shelters that accent the ‘chain’ of the bench like charms on a bracelet.  Each is “made of a strip which forms a simple opening by looping around once. The bronze-finished twisted monocoque forms reach out to both sides, making no front or back. The bench stretches as it approaches a loop and then inside goes a bit haywire, bouncing of the walls and ceiling creating seats and openings. The loop contains the haywire stretch of bench and frames the views each way…the Longest Bench unfolds a series of individual playful spaces and like a charm bracelet, we begin with a couple of charms and more can be added as birthday presents later.”

“The Longest Bench is made from thousands of hardwood bars reclaimed from sources including old seaside groynes (including Littlehampton’s!) and rescued from landfill. This simple component is arrayed to accommodate the complex shapes called for by the form of the wall and the activities which take place along it. The variety of reclaimed timbers are interspersed with splashes of bright colour wherever the bench wriggles, bends or dips.”

Play-ful without being a play-ground…perfect.  

[images and text via Studio Weave, except for the final photo which is by David Barbour via e-architect]

2 Responses to “The Longest Bench, Littlehampton UK, Studio Weave, 2010”

  1. Paige Johnson said:

    Great insight from a local…and highlights one of the difficulties with non-playground playspaces. Thanks Jim!

    August 20, 2013 at 2:25 am

  2. James Fryer said:

    Living near this beach, I am always struck at how the shelter design was not thought through.

    The shelters look like a playground. So naturally, children play on it! They climb up and all around the twisting bench.

    Unfortunately though no one seemed to realise this would happen. So the shelter is laid on hard tarmac not a softer surface, and the bench is quite dangerous to fingers as it is not designed for climbing.

    So the council has added ugly and ineffectual “No Climbing” signs to the bench. Still every time I am there I see children climbing over it, their parents notice the signs and pull them off.

    It really is a shame — with more thinking this could have been a wonderful functional artefact as well as an amazing looking one.

    August 20, 2013 at 1:47 am

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