The Longest Bench sinuously travels along Littlehampton’s promenade, meandering around lampposts, bending behind bins, and ducking down into the ground to allow access between the beach and the Green. Like a seaside boardwalk the Longest Bench rests gently on its habitat and adapts to its surroundings while like a charm bracelet it connects and defines the promenade as a whole, underlining it as a collection of special places that can be added to throughout its lifetime.
Accompanying the long bench are two bronze-finished steel monocoque loops that connect the promenade with the green behind it. As the bench arrives inside the twisting loops it goes a little 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 first phase of the bench was opened to the public on the 30th July 2010. The bench is currently the longest in the UK. The bench is 324 metres long and seats over 300 adults. This measurement is taken following all the curves through the shelters which each house approximately 83 metres of bench.
The promenade site and design allows the landmark bench to keep growing up to over 620 metres (following the curves of the structure), seating over 800 adults.
The bench is made from thousands of tropical hardwood slats. The timber is 100% reclaimed from sources including old seaside groynes and rescued from landfill. Tropical hardwoods are some of the most robust and long lasting timbers in the world and they have a proven track record in marine environments. The bench uses more than a dozen different species arranged to express the natural variation in colour and tone from pale blonds to warm pinks and rich browns.
The beautiful variety of reclaimed timbers are interspersed with splashes of bright colour wherever the bench wiggles, bends or dips. The coloured bars are made from stainless steel box sections dipped in Nylon-11, a polymer enamel. The brightly coloured bars are arranged to create a subtly changing colour scheme from pink, yellow and orange at the east end to purple, blue and green at the west.
The support structure for the bench is made from stainless steel, a 100% recyclable and on average 70% recycled material (Steel Construction Institute).
The two shelters are steel monocoque structures spray coated with Aluminium Bronze which gives them their golden finish. Over time, the bronze shelters will settle into their coastal environment naturally gathering salt streaks and verdigris on the more exposed areas while maintaining a warm golden glow inside.
The first phase was funded through a £450,000 grant from the Sea Change Programme run by the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE), which aims to help the regeneration of seaside towns. A generous private donation of £100,000 was also made by Gordon Roddick as a tribute to his late wife Anita. Anita and Gordon started the Body Shop in Littlehampton and the head office is located in the town. More than 200 of the timber slats have been engraved with personal messages of dedication by local residents and businesses.
Client: Arun District Council www.arun.gov.uk
The construction project was managed by Arun District Council which is also responsible for its ongoing maintenance.
Project Initiators: Jane Wood and Sophie Murray www.eastbeachcafe.co.uk
The project was initiated by Littlehampton residents and entrepreneurs Jane Wood and Sophie Murray, the mother and daughter pair responsible for the East and West Beach Cafés.
Designers: Studio Weave www.studioweave.com
with inspiration from pupils from Connaught Junior School, Littlehampton
The design is by award-winning London-based practice Studio Weave. To inspire and develop the project, Studio Weave worked with pupils from Connaught Junior School who explored what makes Littlehampton’s seaside unique and offered insightful ideas including the bright colour pallet and dynamic shelters. The children wanted to create a “friendship bench” based on a bench in their own playground that is brightly coloured as a symbol of somewhere to sit to make new friends.