RIBAJ MacEwen Award 2021 Shortlisted

The scheme takes on the design of four separate seating areas within Rectory Lane Cemetery, Berkhamsted. Designed by architects James Alder and Thom Brisco, the interventions form part of the wider transformation and refurbishment of the neglected cemetery into an active community space for the town.

The manufacture of the concrete benches themselves was coordinated with Broadmead RCS in Sittingbourne, specialists in precast concrete. The bench arrangements are made from only four forms, their varying configuration of which, form the changes inherent to the configuration of each of the separate seating areas. Compass Timber formed the 45mm thick Iroko timber components of the seating. All of which were cut to radius, planed and installed as both backrests and seating pads throughout the project.

These are all elevated from the underlying concrete surface and sit upon a brass plate frame that forms a complete demountable cassette. Brassmaster made all of the brass framing, as well as the brass reading box of the scheme, from 10mm thick brass sheet throughout.

The benches sit within concentric rings of granite setts, that then interact with the surrounding landscaping of the wider project. The benches are to be read as objects freely dispersed within the walkways, gravestones and memorials within which they sit.

In a matching tone to what surrounds them, the benches are formed from a simple, base set of circular geometries that do not unnecessarily vie for attention within their historic setting. Set within the aims of the wider cemetery refurbishment, these interventions seek to reform the dilapidated cemetery into a communal landscape. To this end, the benches are organised for both the gathering of small groups, and for individual reflection.

Architects: James Alder and Thom Brisco
Client: The Friends of St Peter’s Great Berkhamsted
Landscaping Contractor: William Jackson
Precast Concrete Manufacturer: Broadmead RCS
Brasswork Fabricator: Richard Page (Brass Master Ltd)
Timber Fabricator: Gordon Cunningham (Compass Timber Company Ltd)
Structural Engineer: Ian Stephenson
Photography: Harry Sleightholme
Completion: 2021
Floor Area: N/A
Sector: Public
Total Cost: Private
Procurement: Construction Management
Location: Berkhamsted