New International Design Challenge for Innovative Outdoor Public Benches

New International Design Challenge for Innovative Outdoor Public Benches Blog  Design Museum Portland

Street Seats: Urban Benches for Vibrant Cities

Call for Entries Open January 18 – May 11, 2018


Portland (January 18, 2018) – Design Museum Portland is pleased to announce Street Seats: Urban Benches for Vibrant Cities, an international design challenge which will culminate in an public outdoor exhibition and walking tour around the World Trade Center Portland plaza in Downtown Portland, Oregon. Entrants will participate by designing sustainable outdoor sidewalk furniture with a focus on reuse, using environmentally-friendly materials and innovative construction methods. Semi-Finalist teams will fabricate their unique bench designs to be featured in an outdoor public design exhibition at the World Trade Center Portland in August of 2018.

Street Seats is all about bringing together residents, city officials, businesses — and designers from around the world — and asking ‘how can design improve livability?’ Portland is filled with creative problem solvers, this challenge gives designers the chance to show the public how even the humble public bench can have dramatic impact in the built environment.” – Sam Aquillano, Executive Director, Design Museum Foundation

The four-month application period welcomes designers, architects, fabricators, makers, artists, and craftspeople to register and create a unique Street Seat. Each submission will be judged by a panel of thought leaders, arts and culture leaders, urban innovators, and sponsors to determine the top 15 Semi-Finalists, who will then fabricate their bench to be installed in the outdoor exhibit and walking tour! Participating designers receive international recognition in the design community and visibility with major organizations interested in supporting the arts, design, and urban innovation industries.


New International Design Challenge for Innovative Outdoor Public Benches

In 2013, Design Museum Foundation produced Street Seats around Boston’s Fort Point Channel. Design Museum collaborated with design teams from around the world, commissioning 18 new public benches which were installed along the Harborwalk. Along with the bench installation exhibition, the program featured online content, Beacons, and an opening celebration that drew over 3,000 people to the site with over 100,000 outdoor impressions over a 7-month period.

Street Seats is more than a design competition. It is a career accelerator. For two quietly talented designers at my firm, Street Seats provided a platform for them to express their creativity, hone their leadership skills and increase their visibility in the firm and design community at large. Having proven their ability to represent the firm well, they now lead complex design projects and mentor others making their way in this industry.” – Brittney Herrera, Senior Workplace Strategist, SERA Architects

Street Seats is a testament to the power of collaborative design and its ability to engage and inspire community with something as seemingly simple as a place to sit.Local, national, and international designers transformed Boston’s Fort Point Channel in 2013, and will bring new, innovative designs to Downtown Portland in 2018!” – Matt Edlen, Director of Acquisitions and Development, Gerding Edlen


New International Design Challenge for Innovative Outdoor Public Benches

How to Apply
To apply to the Street Seats Design Challenge, visit
View the full Call for Entries here:


Schedule at a Glance
January 18             Call for Entries Opens
March 16                Early Bird Registration Deadline
May 11                     Final Deadline, 11:59pm PDT
June 6                     Semi-Finalists Announcement
July 23                    Full-Scale Model Due for Arrival
August 2                 Exhibition Opening, Announcement of the Top 3 Finalists
February 2019       Street Seats Collection moves to Permanent Locations


Design and Judging Criteria
A Jury of 30 people will base its scoring on the following considerations. It may award extra points for originality. The Jury will not consider any optional or additional materials when judging entries.

  • Sustainable design using recycled, reclaimed, and/or renewable materials
  • Aesthetically pleasing
  • Innovative design and construction
  • Safe for outdoor public use
  • Must fit within bench envelope (30’’ x 72’’ x 48’’)
  • Seat at least 2 people – hold 600 lbs of weight at various seating positions
  • Suitable for outdoor use (durable, robust, weatherproof, etc)
  • Stable and securable at the site once installed
  • Depth and quality of design process documentation


Support Street Seats
Partners of Street Seats are welcome! Supporters receive international recognition in the design challenge, visibility at the exhibition in Downtown Portland, OR, and even obtain one Semi-Finalist bench to display, auction, or donate after the program is complete.For partnership information, email [email protected].

Street Seats: Urban Benches for Vibrant Cities is made possible through the support of the World Trade Center Portland and Portland General Electric Company.

For full details on Street Seats visit



About Design Museum Portland
At Design Museum Portland we believe design can change the world. Done well, it can elevate our quality of life, make businesses more competitive, and protect our environment. Design awareness, education, and expertise are more important now than ever before as design continues to impact communities, organizations, and markets around the world. Design Museum Portland is redefining what it means to be a museum in the 21st century — we’re online, nomadic, and accessible to all through a network of exhibitions, events, and content. Our mission: show the world the positive impact good design can have and create the most accessible museum imaginable. Design is everywhere. So are we. For more information visit



Images courtesy Design Museum Portland.

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