Design Exhibition Scotland reveals new park bench designs at Mount Stuart

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Design Exhibition Scotland reveals new park bench designs at Mount Stuart
Artist and Designer James Rigler with his bench design at Mount Stuart House.

ISLE OF BUTE.- Sitting Pretty is a new project by Design Exhibition Scotland to showcase ambitious new park bench designs as part of a temporary exhibition at Mount Stuart on the Isle of Bute. Running from 9 July until 15 October, five new benches have been created by Scotland-based design talent.

This project complements Mount Stuart’s long tradition of commissioning site-specific installations. Through an open call that received over 60 submissions, Design Exhibition Scotland prompted Scottish designers to produce original benches for Mount Stuart reflecting on the potential of these objects to connect people to nature, offering the luxury of calmness and stillness in an ever-changing and fast-paced world. Park benches are used to explore alternative lifestyles focused on wellbeing and community values as the design structures ground users in the natural landscape encouraging reflections on human relations.

Four design teams were selected to create four outdoor benches; while as part of a separate commission artist and designer James Rigler has designed a new indoor bench for the interior of Mount Stuart House. The selection panel for the open call was Sophie Crichton Stuart, chair of Mount Stuart Trust; Sophie McKinlay, director of programme, V&A Dundee; artist & designer, James Rigler & Susanna Beaumont, Director, Design Exhibition Scotland.

Together they looked for designs that celebrate 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, that the park bench should celebrate good design & well-crafted materials.

Susanna Beaumont, Director Design Exhibition Scotland commented “There’s something so generous about a bench. Benches offer the possibility that somebody can sit next to you creating a kind of hospitality of the outdoors. You could be there on your own, chatting with a friend or eating a sandwich: but there’s something in that sense of a bench for all. A bench is a piece of sculpture and then you sit on it and it’s a functional object.

I was really delighted that we had such a brilliant range of proposals. We had established architectural firms, design collectives, recent graduates and celebrated Scottish designers. In all its variations it was a wonderful opportunity to riff on something that is commonplace.

The four successful designs selected from the open call are very different but each share a clear vision, and a unique take on the brief. In addition thanks to further funding from Hope Scott Trust, Design Exhibition Scotland then approached James Rigler to create an indoor bench responding to the stunning interior of the Marble Hall at Mount Stuart.

I hope the selected benches can act as prototypes to be replicated and to populate urban and natural spaces in Scotland creating further opportunities for the emerging designers involved. Until then I look forward to the design wowing visitors to Mount Stuart over the summer.”

Sophie Crichton Stuart, Chair of Mount Stuart Trust said: "Mount Stuart Trust is delighted to collaborate on this project with Design Exhibition Scotland providing the opportunity for prototyping and exhibiting public seating and developing innovative design skills. It is a pleasure to be involved.”

The relationship with nature and with the specific landscape of Mount Stuart is encouraged through the chosen materials locally sourced or openly inspired by the Gothic architecture of the building and its acres of gardens and woodlands. Combining traditional design techniques with highly technologically advanced methods, the design teams show an interest in developing a sustainable practice to create viable approaches to the use of natural and artificial materials.

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