‘Lotus Bench’ to blossom in Aldgate

A part of London will be looking a bit brighter by the end of April thanks to a student in The Sir John Cass Faculty of Art, Architecture and Design (The Cass).

Date: 4 April 2014

Furniture and Product Design student Charles Mugisha has won a competition to design a piece of street furniture for Aldgate, and will see his creation appear in weeks.

His ‘Lotus Bench’ will join the high-profile red street installations already popping up around Aldgate to signal a major rework of the area.

Charles said: “In the inner-city, trees can promote feelings of wellbeing and relaxation and I wanted somehow to include this in my project.

“My first idea was to capture the grace and elegance of trees to find a design which could offer shade and some degree of privacy to the user.

“Sitting in this busy place exposed to the noise and traffic and the constant flow of people passing by was unlikely to make me feel comfortable and relaxed. I knew my design would have to take on this challenge.”

Charles became involved in the project when the City of London Corporation joined with the Faculty’s Cass Projects unit to run a competition for students to design the new installation.

Aldgate Project stakeholders the Whitechapel Gallery and Transport for London, together with the City of London Corporation departments responsible for developing the new designs, the Department of the Built Environment and Open Spaces, all voted for their favourite entries, with Charles’s coming out the winner.

Victor Callister, Assistant Director (Environmental Enhancement), City of London, said: “The furniture designed by Charles offers welcoming and intimate spaces in an area which is changing and developing a strong new sense of identity.

“Design interventions like the Lotus Bench are an important part of marking this change, and defining what the area will be.”

The scheduled improvements to Aldgate include the removal of the one-way system and roundabout, with a new urban park and pavilion & café in its place. The work is due for completion in 2016. The design competition is part of the strategy to mark the changes bringing a new sense of place and reflect the existing communities.  

Third year degree student Charles’ design was commended for its adaptability to the varied site locations and the convivial experiences the seating patterns provide. The committee also enjoyed the chairs’ elegant responses to the surrounding urban fabric.

Robert Mull, Dean of The Cass at London Metropolitan University, said: “Charles’s giant domestic chairs perfectly capture the interplay between different scales of practice that is possible in The Cass. 

“His proposal brings furniture and urban design together making a generous contribution to the city and its occupants.”

Charles added: “I am very proud that my project was chosen by different representatives of this community and that they believe my design will bring benefits to the public.

“I am excited about seeing my design in Aldgate and I look forward to seeing people using the chair when having lunch or reading a paper. I hope they will be comfortable and relaxed.”

Find out more about The Cass here.