Dezeen Magazine

Scottish designers create benches informed by Mount Stuart House on the Isle of Bute

A bench made from reclaimed sandstone and a series of marble-patterned chairs are among the seats created for Mount Stuart House's Sitting Pretty installation.

Named Sitting Pretty, the exhibition includes benches that were designed to respond to the 19th-century house's materials and landscape.

Abstract scrap metal bench by Scottish designer C.A. Walac in front of Mount Stuart for Sitting Pretty exhibition
The Sitting Pretty exhibition at Mount Stuart House was informed by the character of the site

Commissioned by Design Exhibition Scotland, the Scottish designers aimed to demonstrate how park benches can provide a moment of stillness in a fast-paced world.

The benches were made from materials ranging from locally sourced wood and quarried sandstone, to recycled plastic and scrap metal.

According to Design Exhibition Scotland, these materials were chosen to encourage visitors to engage with the landscape of Mount Stuart House.

Children play around a sandstone bench designed by Dress for the Weather and Stefanie Cheong for Sitting Pretty
Dress for the Weather and Stefanie Cheong created a pair of sandstone benches

Rekha Maker's VISTA benches were based on the colour palette of Mount Stuart House's Marble Hall.

The set of four chairs was made from various shades of jesmonite to mimic the abundance of marble in the building.

"Designed to reflect the sumptuous palette of the Marble Hall inside the house, I've worked to create a piece of luxury for everyone outside," said Rekha Maker founder Rekha Barry.

Colourful marble-textured chairs by Rekha Maker for Sitting Pretty exhibition in a garden on Isle of Bute
Rekha Maker's series of seats takes inspiration from the nearby Marble Hall

The seats were designed both for sitting and as flat surfaces for placing objects like books or picnics.

"The arched inserts allow wheelchair users to use the benches too as a surface to place picnics and maps," she said.

"There are two amazing views here so it was important that the benches looked in both directions, towards the house and the Japanese gardens."

Abstract white and red scrap metal bench by Scottish designer
The form of C A Walac's bench is determined by the characteristics of found materials

C A Walac created her bench from scrap metal sourced from within 0.01 miles of her Glasgow studio.

Through her design, Walac aimed to reshape and recontextualise found scraps, letting the benches' forms evolve from the unique features of the reclaimed materials.

The result is a park seat that doubles up as an abstract sculpture, which the designer hopes will demonstrate the beauty that can evolve from the inherent properties of found materials.

Old sandstone bench with seat made from recycled plastic by Dress for the Weather and Stefanie Cheong
A seat of recycled plastic sits atop a historic sandstone base in a bench by Dress for the Weather

In their collaboration, Dress for the Weather's Andy Campbell and Stefanie Cheong created a bench from locally sourced sandstone, which dates back 400 million years, topped with recycled waste from plastic packaging.

"We were inspired to design a bench that disrupts classical ideals of the pleasure garden and the carefully cultivated, well-ordered landscapes often seen within the grounds of stately homes," said the designers.

Chris Dobson's Monolith bench, which will be built later this year, will be made from Scottish larch cross-laminated timber.

Informed by local design traditions, he aimed to reflect the styles of both traditional Orkney chairs and the more recent brutalist concrete bus shelters on the Isle of Lewis.

Chris Dobson's Monolith bench made from Scottish larch CLT
Chris Dobson's timber bench will be built later this year

"Benches can represent a means to increase public awareness of such timber construction technology," he said.

"It is exciting to consider the prospect of scaling this to the provision of contemporary, well-designed and attainable homes for those in most need, whilst also supporting local industry and drawing upon the nation's natural resources."

Arches and gothic features feature in Marble Hall at Mount Stuart
James Rigler was invited to design a bench to sit inside Mount Stuart House's Marble Hall

In an independent commission supported by the Hope Scott Trust, James Rigler was asked to design an additional bench based upon the interior of Mount Stuart House's Marble Hall.

As the only indoor installation in the exhibition, Rigler's Passing Bench was a response to the marble columns and Gothic arches featured in the space.

James Rigler's lion-shaped bench covered in blue faux fur with silver legs
The seat mimics the colour palette and Gothic features of the hall

Blue faux fur that matches the colour of the ceiling hangs over the silver ceramic legs of the bench, echoing the decorative features of the interior.

"I liked the idea of furniture that speaks the same decorative language as Mount Stuart House, yet doesn't quite fit," said Rigler. "The imitative materials, exaggerated colours and comic form produce a seductive but unsettling presence."

Other benches featured on Dezeen include a UFO-shaped bench in Canary Wharf and a bench representing rising sea levels by Pews and Perches as part of the London Festival of Architecture.

The photography is by Mark Gibson.

Sitting Pretty takes place from 9 July to 15 October 2022. See Dezeen Events Guide for an up-to-date list of architecture and design events taking place around the world.